Integrating Pointing Sensors for High Altitude Balloon-borne Telescope

Mei Han


Engineering and Applied Sciences


Project Summary

This summer, I participated in PURM under the guidance of James Aguirre in the department of Physics and Astronomy. In this project I worked on implementing sensors that will eventually be mounted on the balloon-borne telescope, TIM. TIM, the Terahertz Intensity Mapper, will detect far-infrared waves to give us clues on the history of star and galaxy formation since the Big Bang.

My role this summer was to implement three high frequency sensors: the gyroscope, inclinometer, and magnetometer. These sensors collect rotational rate, tilt angle, and magnetic field data respectively. Combined, they will provide an estimate of the orientation and motion of TIM. I wrote programs which pull data from the sensors, convert that data into understandable information, and compute approximate pointing. The programs also plot the data in real-time in the graphing interface, Grafana, and save the data for further analysis. Throughout the summer, we tested the sensors on a dual-axis rotating platform to simulate TIM's movement while airborne, but in the future we plan on mounting the sensors onto a miniature version of TIM which we will suspend in mid-air.

In addition to learning technical skills, such as programming sensors and assembling machined parts, I also learned about the process of designing a robust and effective experimental setup. From the physical design of the telescope gondola, to the software installed inside the flight computer, I was surprised by how many factors are taken into consideration to gather accurate and valuable data. My experience this summer has helped me develop an analytical and holistic approach to experimental design and problem solving.

To see my poster, visit Penn Presents: