During 2008 summer from Svalbard (Norway) using a stratospheric balloon a model of SHARAD Radar (now onboard MRO spacecraft) will be tested in the Arctic. The experiment aims to test in a Martian analogue atmosphere the Radar in order to have a set of reference measurement to be used to eliminate possible ambiguities in Mars data analysis. Moreover the campaign will provide valuable information on ice thickness, sub-ice lakes, layers discontinuity lithological and compositional changes, layer geometries, physical properties. At the moment a 10 days circumnavigation of the Artic pole is foreseen.
The experiment will be carried onboard a gondola that will provide the Scientific team with all the necessary subsystems and information available.
The gondola main subsystems are: the mechanical structure and the thermal control subsystem; the power subsystem, the data handling and management subsystem (together with the telemetry) and the housekeeping subsystem. Data transmission and power are the most demanding; the radar produces a huge amount of data that will be stored on board while, due to the low bit rate of data transmission possible, only housekeeping informations will be sent to ground; on the other hand power consumption is high and batteries have to be recharged.
Since radar and data have to be recovered a secure floating mechanism is under study for saving the system also in case of splashing in the north sea. In the meanwhile a ground support equipment is under designing both for engineering activities and for scientific analysis.