Review Article

Techniques for Payload Stabilization for Improved Photography During Stratospheric Balloon Flights

  • James Flaten (University of Minnesota Twin Cities)
  • Christopher Gosch (University of Minnesota Twin Cities)
  • Joseph Habeck (University of Minnesota Twin Cities)


Payload-box rotation and swing are perennial challenges to achieving high-quality photography (typically videography) during weather-balloon flights to “near-space” (AKA the stratosphere). Continuous camera motion can lead to blurred still photos, nearly-impossible-to-watch video footage, and precludes time-exposure photography required for most astronomical imaging even though altitudes are reached where the daytime sky appears black. Apparently-random payload rotation, persisting even at altitude, can often exceed servo rotation rates and frustrate attempts to do active camera pointing. Here we discuss mostly-passive payload stabilization strategies we, and our collaborators, have used to mitigate and dampen both swing and rotation of suspended payloads on high-altitude balloon missions, primarily on ascent. In particular, we stress the importance of avoiding single “main” lines and of firmly coupling the payload stack to, as opposed to intentionally trying to decouple (rotationally) from, the neck of the balloon. We discuss consequences these strategies have on stack weight and also on the location of the parachute, sometimes displacing it from its normal location hanging between the neck of the balloon and the payload stack. We expect these payload stabilization techniques will be of particular interest to balloonists planning to photograph the total solar eclipse of August 2017.

Keywords: Payload, high altitude photography

How to Cite:

Flaten, J., Gosch, C. & Habeck, J., (2021) “Techniques for Payload Stabilization for Improved Photography During Stratospheric Balloon Flights”, Journal of High Altitude Ballooning 1(1). doi:

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Published on
09 Aug 2021
Peer Reviewed