Julian Lucero
Julian Lucero


Julian Lucero, a UNM undergraduate in Computer Engineering, is spending his summer thinking about the recently discovered Comet ISON. He is one of three interns working with researchers in the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory on three projects connected to the Balloon Rapid Response for ISON (BRRISON) mission.

The projects involve a planned helium balloon launch by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to take images of the comet in fall 2013. This will be the first planetary balloon mission launched by NASA in 50 years. It is expected to last about one day and will carry up to 8,000 pounds of scientific equipment. The balloon will hoist a 0.8 meter telescope attached to a gondola to take photos of ISON.

ISON, named for the acronym of the International Scientific Optical Network, was discovered last September by a network of Russian astronomers as it moved out of the Oort Cloud on a journey toward the sun. ISON is projected to travel to a point about 730,000 miles above the surface of the sun. It may swing around the sun and head back into space or it may break apart as it moves into proximity to the sun.

This fall ISON will travel through the inner solar system on the way toward the sun. Astronomers hope to get images of ISON taken as the balloon rises to about 120,000 feet. If all goes well the images may compare in quality to the Hubble Space Telescope, and offer watchers a unique show. The $10 million mission will launch from the Columbia Scientific Balloon Flight Facility at Fort Sumner, New Mexico sometime in the September-October time frame.




Comet ISON
Comet ISON


In the meantime, Lucero is working on his first project which involves transmitting a high definition feed from the balloon as it rises, back to the base station. He is also involved with a project to help with C coding for the gondola that uses pictures taken of stars to track its location. Another project is to interface a PID Heater Controller with their current system.

Lucero grew up in Socorro and says he’s always been interested in computer software, but he never thought his interest would lead him to an internship working on a NASA project. He says he is learning how to work with hardware as well as software and his days are filled with learning new things.

Julian's updates:
June 20, 2013




I have spent the past few weeks working on this Temperature Controller to keep some scientific instruments warm. I wrote a c wrapper for some serial communications to the piece of hardware. They handed me a plastic box with a few screw terminals, a manual, a power supply, a handful of wires, and told me to get it working. The communication went over RS485. This instrument was actually being integrated with a system that is being developed by the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) for the BRRISON project out here. The people I have been coordinating with for this assignment are flying in from, I believe, Colorado on Monday for me to demo my work.Currently I am writing test code and design documents for some startracking software.

July 8, 2013

I have been assisting the Southwest Research Institute(SwRI) group this past couple of weeks. They arrived from Boulder, Colorado on the 24th of June. While APL is developing the IR camera system for the payload, SwRI is developing the UV system. I have been helping integrate the temperature controller into the rest of their electronics. The controller is needed to keep the entire system at a constant temperature so the mount doesn't warp and throw off readings.
On Thursday, they had me make a quick breadboard circuit and LabView program to read some sensor data during pressure chamber tests. The pressure chamber test is scheduled for this Monday.

Official updates on the BRRISON project are posted on Facebook and Twitter by Karl Hibbits.



Media contact: Karen Wentworth (505) 277-5627;kwent2@unm.edu