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Abstract for ALAT & Related Concepts

A multiple function lighter than air robotic platform which is capable of residing in the lower stratosphere for an extended period of time would be an elegant solution for a variety of long standing research and communications problems. Such a platform would be invaluable to the continued pursuit of many disciplines, including astrophysics, high resolution imaging and ranging of satellites and orbital debris, air and space communications utilizing weather dependent frequencies (including optical), atmospheric research, commercial broadcasting, cellular communications, regional position information (including "smart maps" for automobiles), and surveillance. The platform can house inflatable structures which would serve both as ballonets and as reflectors for power collection, communications, and radio astronomy. Additionally, the platform could be used for educational payloads and as a high altitude test bed for materials and instrumentation.

The Airborne Large Aperture Telescope (ALAT) is envisioned to be a multiple function optical telescope (or series of telescopes) which will reside on a high altitude lighter than air robotic platform. The large aperture (~2-3 m) of the telescope and the altitudes at which it operates (~16-22 km) will allow it to perform nearly as well as a space based telescope, yet have many additional advantages, including lower cost, accessibility for maintenance & upgrading, the ability to perform long integrations over a large portion of the sky, and mobility to facilitate strategic positioning for specific events such as eclipses, occultations, or communications. ALAT is the cost effective way to provide the high performance telescopes required for expanded research on a global scale.


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