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Download by parachute: retrieval of assets from high altitude balloons

Sirks, E.L.; Clark, P.; Massey, R.J.; Benton, S.J.; Brown, A.M.; Damaren, C.J.; Eifler, T.; Fraisse, A.A.; Frenk, C.; Funk, M.; Galloway, M.N.; Gill, A.; Hartley, J.W.; Holder, B.; Huff, E.M.; Jauzac, M.; Jones, W.C.; Lagattuta, D.; Leung, J.S.-Y.; Li, L.; Luu, T.V.T.; McCleary, J.; Nagy, J.M.; Netterfield, C.B.; Redmond, S.; Rhodes, J.D.; Romualdez, L.J.; Schmoll, J.; Shaaban, M.M.; Tam, S.-I.

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P. Clark

S.J. Benton

A.M. Brown

C.J. Damaren

T. Eifler

A.A. Fraisse

M. Funk

M.N. Galloway

A. Gill

J.W. Hartley

B. Holder

E.M. Huff

W.C. Jones

J.S.-Y. Leung

L. Li

T.V.T. Luu

J. McCleary

J.M. Nagy

C.B. Netterfield

S. Redmond

J.D. Rhodes

L.J. Romualdez

J. Schmoll

M.M. Shaaban

S.-I. Tam


We present a publicly-available toolkit of flight-proven hardware and software to retrieve 5 TB of data or small physical samples from a stratospheric balloon platform. Before launch, a capsule is attached to the balloon, and rises with it. Upon remote command, the capsule is released and descends via parachute, continuously transmitting its location. Software to predict the trajectory can be used to select a safe but accessible landing site. We dropped two such capsules from the SUPERBIT telescope, in September 2019. The capsules took ~37 minutes to descend from ~30 km altitude. They drifted 32 km and 19 km horizontally, but landed within 300 m and 600 m of their predicted landing sites. We found them easily, and successfully recovered the data. We welcome interest from other balloon teams for whom the technology would be useful.


Sirks, E., Clark, P., Massey, R., Benton, S., Brown, A., Damaren, C., …Tam, S. (2020). Download by parachute: retrieval of assets from high altitude balloons. Journal of Instrumentation, 15(05), Article P05014.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 3, 2020
Online Publication Date May 22, 2020
Publication Date 2020-05
Deposit Date Jun 10, 2020
Publicly Available Date Jun 10, 2020
Journal Journal of Instrumentation
Publisher IOP Publishing
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 15
Issue 05
Article Number P05014


Published Journal Article (7.8 Mb)

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Copyright Statement
© 2020 The Author(s). Published by IOP Publishing Ltd on behalf of Sissa Medialab. Original content from this work may be used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 licence. Any further distribution of this work must maintain attribution to the author(s) and the title of the work, journal citation and DOI.

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