An off-the-shelf camera from Axis Communications has set the world record for the highest wireless network camera delivering high quality images to Earth. The PTZ (pan/tilt/zoom) dome network camera was sent into the atmosphere to a height of 35 km (21. 7 miles) from the Esrange Space Center, north of Sweden, as part of the BEXUS 11 program, which conducts around 20 experiments during each flight.
The height that the camera could operate at was only part of the experiment. Other tests included its ability to operate in freezing conditions (recorded at -73 degrees Celsius and down to -90 degrees Celsius for three hours) and whether the wireless link with the network would remain intact over the descent and journey to where the balloon landed - some 400 km (250 miles) away in Northern Finland.
The wireless AXIS Q6034-E camera passed all tests and gave the researchers valuable information in real time about the balloon's parachute system and its landing capabilities.
Since 1974, the Esrange Space Center has sent more than 550 stratospheric balloons into the atmosphere. The 12,000 m3 balloons usually carry a payload of 40-100 kg (88-220 lb.) and take to the atmosphere for a 2-5 hour flight. Each balloon allows students to undertake around 20 experiments of their own. There is also a similar student program for rockets called REXUS.
On this flight, when the tests were completed the balloon was brought down to Earth with three parachutes, which housed the Axis Q6034-E camera. This made it possible for the researchers to validate the parachute system and its landing with high quality images as the event took place.
"The ability to see exactly what is happening in real time, combined with the data we are recording, is invaluable for assessing how the parachutes behave and where they land. It will lead to more reliable and secure landings," said Per Baldemar, head of the launching team of Rocket & Balloon Systems, Swedish Space Corporation.
Axis has also installed a wireless network IP camera in the heart of the ski slopes on New Zealand's South Island. The camera used is solar-powered and links to the outside world via a cellular 3G router which was custom developed by the systems integrator for use in remote areas with weak cellular coverage. Images taken by the Axis camera are uploaded onto the ski area's website so skiers can survey the slopes and weather conditions prior to arriving.
The BEXUS project is backed by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the Swedish National Space Board (SNSB).