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    Polish Student-Made High-Altitude Balloon Explores Stratosphere, Inspired by Anime

    Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

    Polish students reach the stratosphere with TOTORO balloon, inspired by anime. They also launch Twardowsky, Poland’s first hybrid rocket.


    A high-altitude balloon named TOTORO, developed by the Student Astronautical Circle at Warsaw University of Technology, recently ventured into the stratosphere to study auroral phenomena resulting from the interaction between solar wind and Earth’s magnetosphere. This ambitious project, inspired by the popular anime “My Neighbor TOTORO,” was part of the international REXUS/BEXUS program and took 2.5 years of meticulous preparation.

    TOTORO’s Journey:

    On September 21, 2023, TOTORO embarked on its journey from the Esrange Space Center, located within the Arctic Circle. Equipped with two antennas for electric and magnetic fields, the mission aimed to record low-frequency electromagnetic waves occurring above the ionosphere, such as Auroral Kilometric Radiation (AKR). This phenomenon arises from the interaction between solar wind and Earth’s magnetosphere.

    Collecting Valuable Data:

    During its four-hour flight, TOTORO gathered over 800 gigabytes of scientific data. The research is ongoing, but initial findings are promising.

    The TOTORO Team:

    The team behind TOTORO includes Aliaksandra Shmyk, Ryszard Zawiła, Karol Bresler, Maurycy Ciarka, Rafał Mystkowski, Jacek Martyniak, Katarzyna Wiater, and Tomasz Aleksander Miś. They worked under the guidance of experts from the German Aerospace Center and the Swedish National Space Agency, in collaboration with the European Space Agency.

    Achieving New Heights:

    Besides the stratospheric balloon project, the Student Astronautical Circle achieved another milestone with the successful launch of Twardowsky, the first rocket in the history of Warsaw University of Technology to use a hybrid propulsion system. The launch took place on September 17, 2023, reaching an altitude of 1,400 meters.

    Hybrid Propulsion Innovation:

    Unlike previous rockets using solid propellants, Twardowsky employed a hybrid propulsion system, combining solid fuel and liquid oxidizer. While more complex, hybrid engines offer enhanced safety.

    Expanding Horizons:

    The student team is already working on a larger rocket called Twardowsky 2, aiming for a target altitude of 9,144 meters. Their experience paves the way for participation in international competitions like EUROC and the Spaceport America Cup.

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