UT Tyler Graduates Play Critical Role in Launches
Pictured in the CSBF Operations Control Center, electrical engineers (from left) Juan Perez, Joseph Jones and Chris Field bridge the gap between the worlds of technology and science to accomplish research initiatives. The University of Texas at Tyler graduates Juan Perez, Joseph Jones and Chris Field are known as “payload engineers” for the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility projects.
But the title does not come close to
describing the many hats they wear in that
role. On any given project, these three and
the other electrical engineers at CSBF
design and construct, repair, translate,
communicate, monitor, test and check
equipment — all with the goal of making
every balloon launch a success.
Each high-altitude balloon that is launched
through NASA’s CSBF program carries a
payload of sophisticated, data-gathering
and research instrumentation. Science
teams from around the world place their
hopes in these launches.
Integration is the key.
CSBF Engineer Bryan Stillwell, who oversees
the long duration balloon project, said,
“These engineers play a big role in preparing
for a launch. As payload engineers, they
must talk to the science user and learn how
to communicate their needs. They must
coordinate with technicians and they must
integrate the technology with the science.”
The UT Tyler graduates bridge the gap
between the worlds of technology and
science to help accomplish the different
“All of them are very motivated and well
prepared,” Stillwell said. “They can put
together a project from start to finish with
the designing, schematic and laying out
Each engineer is assigned a specific project.
They must prepare the payload, which is
the device that provides communication
during the flight for the scientists and their
CSBF site manager Danny Ball said the
team based in Palestine is extremely
productive. “These days we’re launching
anywhere between 15 and 25 missions a year,
typically on about four campaigns,” he said.
Once the balloon is prepared and flight
ready, crews travel to remote stations
around the world to launch. Principle
launch sites are located in Antarctica,
Canada, Alaska, Sweden, South America
and Australia. Through these launches,
UT Tyler graduates are helping to provide
creative solutions in science.