Institute for Space Systems

The "Design Study for the European Stratospheric Balloon Observatory" is a research infrastructure project designed to pave the way for an astronomical observatory based on stratospheric balloons

The current model of the "STUDIO" gondola
The current model of the "STUDIO" gondola


For most atmospheric measurements, the Earth's atmosphere is an obstacle. Observers thus started early to move their instrument as high above the perturbing atmospheric layers as possible. Spacecrafts like satellites provide access to optimal observing conditions in this endeavour. However, they are not very accessible after launch and comparably expensive. For some astronomical applications, though, particularly in the far infrared wavelength region and in some parts of the ultraviolet, it is sufficient to take a smaller step up - into the stratosphere.


ESBO DS is working to realise this step up - by creating a European research infrastructure to fly balloon-based telescopes to altitudes of 30 to 40 km. With regular flights, exchangeable instruments, and open access to observation time.

Within the three-year pilot project ESBO DS, two main steps will be taken:

  1. The development and construction of a prototype gondola and telescope, STUDIO, which shall perform technology tests as well as deliver first scientific results during its maiden flight in 2021 with a newly developed UV-instrument provided by the Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Tübingen, Germany.
  2. The development of a strategy for the long-term establishment and operation of the observatory – including the study of the technical feasibility of balloon flights with larger telescopes, particularly of the 5 m aperture class for far infrared observations.


ESBO DS is carried out by a consortium of five European partners from the scientific community and industry:

  • The Institute of Space Systems at the University of Stuttgart
  • The Swedish Space Corporation
  • The Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Tübingen, Germany
  • The Max Planck Institute for extraterrestrial Physics, Germany
  • The Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía, Spain

For more information on scientific ballooning and the STUDIO prototype, see the ESBO DS flyer.

Assistance provided by the German SOFIA Institute

The ESBO DS team is accompanied and advised by the German SOFIA Institute (DSI) at the IRS during all research activities.

More information on the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA)

The current model of the "STUDIO" gondola (transparent)
The current model of the "STUDIO" gondola (transparent)

ESBO DS has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 777516.


This image shows Philipp Maier

Philipp Maier


Research Associate

This image shows Sabine Klinkner

Sabine Klinkner

Prof. Dr.-Ing.

Professor of satellite technology

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