Alaska Space Grant Program launches BEAR

Release Date: 
Tuesday, June 3, 2008

High altitude balloon exceeds 18 vertical miles during flight

For Immediate Release

FAIRBANKS, Alaska— The BEAR is awake. The Alaska Space Grant Program’s Balloon Experiment And Research Program, or BEAR, has launched its first balloon from Poker Flat Research Range. The launch marked the culmination of more than five months of work by researchers with Space Grant and the Arctic Amateur Radio Club, which formed the program in December.

The program’s aim was to launch a high altitude balloon equipped with two amateur radio signals and more from Poker Flat Research Range in the spring of 2008. The balloon launched last month flew as high as 95,327 feet above Fairbanks in three hours, capturing more than 100 photos and video during its flight.

The balloon had three payloads in tow, all built and designed by Dan Wietchy of the Fairbanks-based Arctic Amateur Radio Club. The packages performed well, allowing BEAR participants to track and document the balloon's flight and its subsequent recovery. The balloon was found less than seven miles from where it was launched at Poker Flat Research Range.

The Alaska Space Grant Program intends to expand BEAR into a larger program that will allow University of Alaska Fairbanks students the opportunity to fly payloads of their own design and to conduct atmospheric research in the spring and fall. Faculty members from the Geophysical Institute already are interested in designing graduate-level courses that will take advantage of this new arena to bolster hands-on student research.

Former Alaska Space Grant director Neal Brown will recap BEAR’s first launch in a special presentation before the Arctic Amateur Radio Club on Friday, June 6 at the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus. Brown’s presentation will begin at 7 p.m. in room 401 of the Syun-Ichi Akasofu Building (International

Arctic Research Center) and will include a screening of video captured from the balloon’s flight. Media are welcome to attend.



Neal Brown, Former Director of Alaska Space Grant Program: 907-479-2773,
Amy Hartley, Geophysical Institute Information Officer: 907-474-5823,