Eclipse Ballooning project

 North American Eclipse Radiosonde Project 2017

What is the Radiosonde Project?

Why use Radiosondes?

Who can participate?

When and where is this project?

What are the project milestones?

Fun Challenges of Radiosondes

What is the cost of using a Radiosonde?

Who can I contact for more information?

WHAT:radiosonde Conduct scientific ballooning campaign using radiosondes from multiple locations across the 8/21/2017 total eclipse path, from Oregon to South Carolina. These balloon-borne devices provide basic atmospheric measurements including temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, wind direction, and pressure. The eclipse gives us the opportunity to conduct the largest geographic campaign of balloon flights ever undertaken. The focus on increased spatial and temporal resolution of data for scientific and forecasting purposes is extraordinary. With cross agency collaborations we have the potential for this to be the largest geographic radiosonde campaign ever undertaken.


  • Public engagement. Total eclipses are rare and very impactful events. For those who have witnessed them, it is a memory they keep forever. The continental US hasn’t had a total eclipse since 1979 (northwest only). The NASA Space Grant network is in a unique position to engage the public in an awe-inspiring and educational way at a surprisingly small cost.
  • STEM pipeline development. Conducting radiosonde flights presents an amazing hands-on learning opportunity for students. Participation in these launches encourages students to follow STEM paths through college. The engaging STEM content resulting from this project is not limited to the timeframe immediately following the launch, but introduces a permanent dataset that can be analyzed by students, extending the impact of the flights to future classrooms as well.
  • Partnerships. We will develop several potentially long lasting partnerships with other federal agencies and with industry; an effort we hope will include a broad range of leveraged assets.

WHO: 150 teams consisting of partnerships between university and pre-college programs is the goal with a dozen teams already lined up to participate should support be available.

WHEN: Eclipse totality starts on the Oregon coast at about 1:20 PM Eastern on August 21, 2017 and ends about 2:50 PM Eastern on the South Carolina coast.

WHERE: Teams will be coordinated with both the large balloon launch sites and surface mesonets (mesoscale network environmental monitoring stations).

Project milestones:

– 2015: Fundraise, organize, and select participants

– December 2015: Distribute radiosonde systems

– July 2016: Hold workshop on best practices of data collection

– June 2017: Hold dry run with at least one flight per location

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FUN CHALLENGES: While radiosonde launches are done twice daily by the National Weather Service, carrying out a coordinated network of such flights among academic institutions from across the country presents a few challenges. These challenges are broad – technical, political, administrative – but provide interesting training opportunities for the student participants and make the project exciting and very worthwhile for the participating teams. Challenges include: precise timing of the launches for temporal resolution targets, collaborating with groups of mentors and students at locations spread across the country, making the necessary arrangements with NASA so that the data can be linked to the NASA eclipse (or main) web page, developing the infrastructure for data analysis by the undergraduate students, and developing the curriculum for the 7-12th grade students to be utilized after the event.radiosonde2

USE OF THE DATA: Possible interesting total eclipse experiments include but are not limited to: measuring temperature fluctuations, ozone fluctuations, and gravity wave development. Links to information and pictures about each team’s launch will be included online.

COSTS PER TEAM (for 20 flights): Due to the early phase of the project and the diverse situations for each team, the following numbers are very rough estimates.

  • Radiosonde ground station: $6,000 – $8,000
  • Radiosondes, balloons, helium/hydrogen, basic flight supplies: $5000
  • Travel to launch sites: $2,000

Total: $13,000 – $15,000/team. This estimate is based on eight radiosondes to be used during the eclipse at fifteen minute intervals. Two radiosondes will be extras during the eclipse in case of any technology errors and ten radiosondes will be used to prepare for the eclipse event. This total does not include faculty, staff, or student support, which is highly desirable.

CONTACT: If you’re interested in participating, partnering, or sponsoring, please contact one of the following:

  • Overall project concept, partnership, or national sponsorship: Angela Des Jardins,
  • Coordination Team: Caitlin Nolby,
  • Atmospheric Science Team: Jennifer Fowler,

More information can be found at

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