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Payload Payoff
UT Tyler Graduates Play Critical Role in Launches

group photo
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 research projects.nasa logo

“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 circuit boards.”

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 research.

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.

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