The Stratospheric Microbe and Bacteria Accumulator (SIMBA) is a small HASP payload that was launched September 7th, 2015. SIMBA's mission is to collect microorganisms from the stratosphere while simultaneously collecting environmental data on the living conditions of the microbes. The overall mission goal is to collect information on Earth's stratospheric microorganisms so to better understand the environments in which these microbes live, thrive, and grow.
To collect the microbes, the SIMBA payload is designed deploy two polycarbonate filters once the platform reaches maximum altitude at approximately 36 kilometers. The filters will remain exposed to the stratosphere for the duration of the platform float, then be sealed in a sterilized container called a clean zone before descent. On board the payload are also many environmental sensors including UV, humidity, temperature, and pressure sensors. After the payload is recovered, the SIMBA team will visually identify the microorganisms down to a genus level using a scanning electron microscope. They will also measure the amount of microbes captured using a DAPI (4',6-diamidino-2-phenylindole) stain and a fluorescent microscope. Once visual identification has been completed, the team will attempt to culture the remaining samples in different extreme conditions to test their resilience. This includes conditions such as salt content, light exposure, temperature, and humidity.
In the first week of August, the team went to the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Texas to run integration tests with the HASP platform. The payload completed two successful thermal vacuum chamber tests and was cleared for flight.
The payload launched on September 7th, 2015 from Fort Sumner, New Mexico at 7:47 AM (MT). It flew for 23.1 hours and landed the morning of September 8th. Check out the video of SIMBA's flight here, courtesy of the Illinos Institude of Technology. During flight, the payload had a complication and the collection unit did not fully deploy. The team concluded that one of the guide rods was bent during the shipping process, causing the collection unit to only deploy about 1 1/2 cm. The science team followed through with the culturing process to check if any microbes where captured, but no significant growth was found. Other than the failure to fully deploy, the payload functioned as normal and the team learned a lot from the failure analysis process during the post-flight stage.
Project Managers: Haleigh Flaherty and Melody Blackis
Systems Engineer: Alex St. Clair
Team Leads: Allison Howard, Gage Froelich, Nathan Levigne, and Lauren Raddatz
Members: Daniel Green, Jack Dinkel, Trevor Barth, and Emilia Cassidy
Special thanks to:
Greg Potts and the Idea Forge machine shop
Jake Flood and the Shelley Copley Lab
Louis Stodieck and the Bioserve Space Technologies Lab