Posted on | September 9, 2011 | Comments Off
A group of particle astrophysicists led by Professor Peter Gorham and Associate Professor Gary Varner in Mānoa’s Department of Physics and Astronomy was awarded a $1 million NASA grant to begin development of a radical new design of a stratospheric balloon-based astrophysics observatory.
The ExaVolt Antenna project will attempt for the first time to integrate a huge radio-frequency antenna system right into the outer fabric of a NASA stratospheric balloon. EVA’s goal is to make measurements of radio impulses produced by ultra-high energy cosmic particles that are a hundred times better than current systems, including the state-of-the-art ANITA balloon project, which Gorham and Varner also lead.
EVA’ approach effectively creates a balloon-based sub-orbital radio dish as large as some of the largest ground-based radio telescopes.
The current NASA grant will support an initial phase of the project to develop a scale model prototype about 60–80 feet in diameter (about 1/5 the size of the full balloon) which will then be flown sometime in the next few years on a tether within a large airship hangar to confirm the performance of the system. If all goes well, the group then hopes to scale up to and fly the full-scale EVA.