National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Glenn Research Center


Practical High Altitude Microgravity Experiment (PHAME)

Group Project Proposal

NASA Glenn Space Academy 2011

Michael Barton, Michael Johnston, Logan Larson, David Miculescu, Michelle Nadeau, Michael Nussbaum, Molly Townsend, Cameron Turner


A low cost balloon lifted experimental drop vehicle is proposed for microgravity research experiments.  A proof of concept apparatus will be designed and built which includes a lift and drop module.  The lift vehicle will consist of a helium filled weather balloon capable of lifting a small payload to an altitude of over 100,000 ft.  The drop vehicle will consist of an outer drag shield carrying vehicle status sensors, GPS, communication system, camera, and parachute recovery system.  Within the outer drag shield, an inner drop vehicle will carry a self contained accelerometer package to record observed gravity data.


  • Lift vehicle to an altitude greater than 100,000 ft.
  • Achieve less than 0.1 G for 5 seconds
  • Recover drop package
  • Prove that a low-budget, drop experiment can be conducted via balloon


  • Size – large enough to hold an experiment
  • Payload weight under 4 – 12 lbs per FAA regulations/exceptions
  • Budget
  • Time (10 total weeks)

Project Design/Components:

  • Balloon assembly
    • Balloon material
    • Gas
    • Detachment mechanism
  • Parachute assembly
    • Release mechanism
    • Cord
    • Parachute
  • Airframe (outer-shell)
    • Nose cone
    • Proper weighting
    • Fins
    • Parachute mounting points
    • Instrumentation
  • Inner package
    • Package support system
    • Controlled drop mechanism
    • Instrumentation


  • Accelerometers
  • Pressure transducers
  • Thermocouples
  • Memory storage
  • GPS
  • Camera
  • Communication


  • $100 per Academy RA
  • Respective Space Grant Consortiums and universities
  • Private industry sponsors