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Technology Demonstration Missions

WASP - Wallops Arc Second Pointer (WASP)

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

The Wallops Arc Second Pointer, known simply as WASP, is a control system that points balloon payload instruments with accuracy and stability down to the arc second, or 1/3,600 of a degree of angular measurement. Take WASP and attach a high-powered telescope and you have a highly precise instrument for conducting research in and at points far beyond our solar system.  On September 22, 2012, the Wallops Balloon Program Office successfully flew the second test flight of the WASP system aboard a scientific balloon launched from Fort Sumner, New Mexico. The helium-filled balloon, so massive in volume you could stuff the Houston Astrodome inside of it, flew the nearly 3,000 pound WASP payload to an altitude of 125,000 feet during a 15-and-a-half hour test flight.  WASP technology is well suited for future long duration (month long) exoplanetary studies.  The WASP system more recently flew in September 2013 supporting a calibration instrument.

The WASP System, currently under development, is a NASA provided support system which can point telescopes and other instruments on balloon gondolas at inertial, and other targets with arc-second accuracy.  WASP is intended to be a flexible system that can be used to support a variety of science-provided instruments and sensors to meet specific mission performance requirements.  Major components of WASP are reusable which reduces the overall costs to the BPO and to users.  WASP has successfully completed three test flights, in 2011, 2012, and 2013, and has demonstrated positional stability at sub-arc-second levels during flight. The test flight in 2013 included support of its first pointed science instrument, the HyperSpectral Imager for Climate Science (HySICS), provided by the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP), which is an institute at the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU).

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