Students to photograph Discovery flyby at 100,000 feet

A group of students is to launch a balloon on Thursday with the aim of photographing the Discovery space shuttle as it roars past at the edge of space.

There will even be live streaming video from the balloon itself during the mission – sent back by two Android phones – here.

The launch is being conducted by Quest for Stars, a California-based non-profit organization, which has teamed up with the Challenger Center for Space Science in what it’s hoped will be the first of many missions.

The plan is to launch a helium-filled balloon in Florida – some distance away from Kennedy Space Center, they promise, so there’s no danger of a collision. With Discovery currently set for launch at 4.50 pm EST, the balloon will need to go up between 3.00 and 3.50 to get into position; if Discovery’s launch is delayed, the team says it’s quite happy to keep trying.

The balloon will rise at around 900 feet per minute to an altitude of around 100,000 feet.

On board will be the team’s HD Camera Phone Satellite, which will attempt to snap Discovery as it whooshes past. There are several cameras on board to maximize the chances of good pictures. Also part of the payload are a Motorola i290 mobile phone and a Garmin eTrex GPS system, connected to a ham radio transmitter.

After the pics have been taken, the payload will be released and descend by parachute. The payload  will fall for between 15 and 30 minutes before recovery.