Aerostar Hosts Stratospheric Industry Forum

Experts from U.S. Government, U.S. Military, and industry partners gathered in South Dakota to discuss current and emerging stratospheric balloon capabilities.

Sioux Falls, South Dakota-- Aerostar invited experts from U.S. Government, U.S. Military, and industry partners to South Dakota to discuss current and emerging lighter-than-air capabilities and challenges. Aerostar stratospheric balloons provide critical advantages for various missions, bridging key capability gaps in ISR and communication in dynamic environments.

“The primary purpose of this forum was to expand an already strong partnership and innovation between the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, and the Stratospheric Capabilities Industry,” said Jim Nelson, Aerostar President. “Aerostar brought together a mix of industry partners providing highly specialized technology to South Dakota to demonstrate how our products are integrated to achieve objectives on the battlefield, at the site of natural disasters, and in other austere environments. Working together, high-altitude capabilities can save lives.”

Aerostar Thunderhead balloons navigate the stratosphere using a machine-learning algorithm to change altitudes and leverage existing winds in different directions. They can linger over a designated area for weeks to months using solar power to recharge a custom-designed battery bank. Aerostar provides products, engineering services, and integration testing that enable a wide range of payloads to operate in the harsh environment of the stratosphere.

“Robust sensing and communication payloads are critical to providing meaningful effects to our customers. We are excited that several of our key partners joined us for this event – they helped create a rich government/industry dialog about providing real solutions,“ said Russ Vanderwerff, Aerostar Director of Engineering.

Industry participants Artemis, DRT, Inmarsat, Motorola, VAST, and Viasat participated with hands-on demonstrations for the U.S. Government attendees and shared insight about the latest technological advancements and system interoperability.

Representatives from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Special Operations Command, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Defense Innovation Unit, U.S. Geological Survey, and U.S. Department of Agriculture came to learn more about high altitude platforms, payloads, launch systems, command and control systems, user interfaces, logistics equipment, and training opportunities.

Events included industry presentations of current and future stratospheric platform and payload capabilities, panel presentations about the deployment and employment of high-altitude balloon systems, and a tour of Aerostar manufacturing facilities. The launch of a Thunderhead Balloon System by the Army’s 1st Multi-Domain Task Force and Aerostar team was another highlight, followed by live payload demonstrations from the ground.

Forward-stationed MDTFs with capabilities in all domains (land, sea, air, space, and cyber), the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS), and the information environment can create new dilemmas for adversaries and strengthen deterrence by complicating potential enemy war plans. Recently, Brig. Gen. Bernard Harrington, MDTF Commander, was invited to provide commentary during the upcoming Association of the United States Army Convention in Washington, DC. The Warrior’s Corner, a reserved time for professional discussion, will focus on MDTF’s employment in the Pacific.

“The First Multi-Domain Task Force has been a great partner, spearheading our transition of the Thunderhead Balloon System to the military end-user. We were excited that they could attend to execute the launch and show our guests that this capability is ready for government operation,” said Pete Weisbrod, Aerostar Field Services Manager.

Aerostar is a world leader in the design, manufacture, integration, and operation of persistent stratospheric platforms and radar systems with headquarters in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

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