The third ERC balloon was successfully launched on August 5, at 06:03 UTC (08:03 local time) from Esrange Space Center, with three payloads.
The first payload was released automatically as soon as the balloon came within the Esrange impact area and reached a height of at least 28 km altitude. The other two drop bodies were released manually on command from 35 kilometers and higher. All three payloads were successfully released and recovered within the Esrange impact area.
Campaign background and purpose:
ESA has several unmanned missions ongoing and are looking at trying to bring samples from different objects in space to Earth. By this project ESA wants to evaluate different design solutions for the part of the spacecraft that is intended to bring the samples to Earth. The design should be able to land on Earth without destroying the samples. As the size and volume of the Earth Return Capsules (ERC) is limited one cannot use bulky parachute systems or similar, but will have to rely on the actual shape of the craft to make it slow down in the atmosphere, which means finding a shape that is stable in supersonic as well as subsonic speed. And this is what ESA wants to test by dropping six drop bodies in total, from three balloons.
More information: http://www.sscspace.com/erc-campaign