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Integrated access to balloon-borne platforms for innovative research and technology

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - HEMERA (Integrated access to balloon-borne platforms for innovative research andtechnology)

Periodo di rendicontazione: 2018-01-01 al 2019-06-30

The HEMERA research infrastructure integrates a large starting community in the field of tropospheric and stratospheric balloon-borne research, to make existing balloon facilities available to all scientific teams in the European Union, Canada and associated countries. A wide range of scientific and technical themes will be addressed, such as astronomy, atmospheric physics and chemistry, climate research, fundamental physics, biology, space research and technology.

HEMERA consortium encompasses 13 Partners from 7 countries:
• Space agencies: Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) in France; Swedish National Space Board (SNSB) in Sweden; Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI) in Italy; Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V. (DLR) in Germany; Canadian Space Agency (CSA) in Canada,
• Companies operating these balloons and providing the hardware: Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) in Sweden; Andoya Space Center (ASC) in Norway; Airstar in France, which provides balloon envelopes,
• Scientists from the atmospheric sciences, astronomy and astrophysics communities: Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in France; Karlsruhe Institut für Technologie (KIT) in Germany; Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica (INAF) in Italy; Heidelberg University in Germany (UHEI); Cranfield University (CU) in the UK.

Currently, only a few national programmes for balloon-borne activities and corresponding facilities exist in the European Union (CNES for France, SNSB for Sweden…). HEMERA will be complementary to national programmes and will coordinate European activities in the field of ballooning in order to:

O1: Provide better and coordinated balloon access to the troposphere and stratosphere for scientific and technological research, in response to the scientific user needs, with valuable data for the scientific community.
O2: Attract new users to enlarge the community accessing the balloon infrastructure and foster scientific and technical collaboration.
O3: Enlarge the fields of science and technology research conducted with balloons.
O4: Improve the balloon service offered to scientific and technical users through innovative developments.
O5: Favour standardization, synergy, complementarities and industrialization through joint developments with greater cost-effectiveness.

HEMERA includes four major components:

Through virtual access (VA), researchers will have access to the data collected during balloon campaigns (current and past) and these data will be free of charge for use at their own facilities. HEMERA will participate in the “Open Research Data Pilot” action in Horizon 2020.

Through transnational access (TA), flight opportunities and access to the facilities will be open free of charge to researchers from all European Union, Canada and associated countries, who will provide their own instrumentation. Access will be granted through dedicated calls for proposals followed by independent assessment of the proposals.

Operational launch sites for HEMERA are:
• Esrange Space Center in Kiruna, in the northern Sweden, 68°N, operated by SCC, where both SSC and CNES perform polar flights.
• Timmins launch base, Ontario, Canada, 48°N, where CNES performs flights.
Aire sur l’Adour (Southwest France, 43°N).

During HEMERA, an equatorial ZPB launch site, required by the scientific community, will be explored, as well as a very high latitude in the polar region (Svalbard, Norway, 78°N) and other sites.

Through the joint research activities (JRA), the infrastructure provided to the research community will be improved, optimized and harmonized. This will be made possible through new joint technology developments with the same common objectives and identical specification.

Through the networking activities (NA), scientists and engineers will have new opportunities to meet, interact and discuss experience. Participation of students will be promoted, through a dedicated summer school. Contacts with other European projects will be organized to exchange datasets, standardize practices and possibly identify joint measurement campaigns.
The HEMERA Research Infrastructure started in January 2018, for a four years period.

The first HEMERA Call for Proposals was issued in July 2018 and the answers received in October. A total of 39 experiments have been proposed from 12 different countries, covering a large variety of science fields. The majority of them (16 proposals) were focused on atmospheric science, in particular regarding air and light pollution. Experiments regarding other science fields have been also proposed such as astrophysics (9 proposals), magnetosphere of the sun and space whether (6 proposals). Finally, technical research and educational experiments were proposed (8 proposals).

After an evaluation process performed by an independent Peer Review Group, 23 experiments from 11 countries have been selected for flight at no cost on CNES and SSC balloons during the 2019 and 2020 campaigns.
The experiments will be carried mostly on Zero Pressure (ZPB) balloons and for a few of them on Sounding (SB) balloons. The ZPB balloons will be launched from Esrange, in Sweden or from Timmins in Canada, the SB from Aire sur l’Adour, in France and from Kiruna.

The Data Centre provides free access and services for data archiving including higher level data products, links to large databases of past and ongoing scientific balloon data projects, complemented with access to new data products, together with tools for quality assurance, data analysis and research. Furthermore, a link to the up-to-date catalog of known high-energy astronomical sources will be released. The Data Center first version is open from July, 2019.

Networking activities allow HEMERA consortium to promote balloon activities in Europe, through the participation to numerous congresses and symposiums, with HEMERA presentations.
A specific Summer School will be organized in Heidelberg in September 2019, as well as a dedicated HEMERA symposium by INAF in Rome in September/October 2020. Last, new launch bases are under investigation to improve the access to the stratosphere in various important locations on the Earth.

In the frame of Joint Research activities work is on-going on a set of Small Lightweight Innovative Instruments. Comparative evaluation will be performed. Processing algorithms in particular for hyperspectral observations are also being investigated.
HEMERA has already managed to reach a large community of users; a second call of proposals will be issued soon, in order to prepare the 2021 flight campaign ; the efforts to reach new users in different countries will be pursued in this frame

HEMERA offer has been increased for the 2020 flights, in order to better adapt to the user demand, both at SSC and at CNES

Concerning scientific objectives, one may expect very significant results from the flight campaigns, for example in the field of atmospheric chemistry, since several major experiments in this field have been selected ; in high energy astrophysics, new X ray technologies will be tested and compared