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Stratospheric view
The sun shines above the clouds in a view captured by the Pegasus I balloon experiment. (Credit: MIcrosoft Research)

How high can the Internet of Things go? Microsoft Research plans to extend the IoT into the stratosphere with its Pegasus II high-altitude balloon experiment, and you’re invited to take a virtual ride.

The mission was scheduled for a launch opportunity on Tuesday in Kankakee, Ill. The flight builds on years’ worth of research into creating networks that can take advantage of Microsoft Azure cloud services, even when part of the network is above the clouds.

Pegasus I sent a balloon from Othello, Wash., to an altitude of 100,000 feet in January 2015. The communication system experienced some glitches, but Microsoft Research’s Project Orleans team eventually recovered the instrument payload and extracted data that helped them prepare for the Pegasus sequel.

Like the first balloon experiment, Pegasus II is designed for interactivity.

“You’ll be part of exploring a system that could span geographical and physical boundaries and leverage powerful digital processors,” software engineer Matt Long says in a posting to the Microsoft Research blog. “You will explore a new generation of systems with new capability to bridge the digital and physical worlds.”

You can watch the launch and follow the flight on video via the mission’s website. You can monitor telemetry and link up with the onboard computer during the mission, via the Web or a mobile app. (Search for “Pegasus Mission” to download the app for iOS, Android or Windows).

If you sign up for notifications, Pegasus II will text your phone when it takes off and hits mission milestones. Updates are also available on Facebook and Twitter. Weather could force a delay in the launch, or add to the drama once Pegasus II is airborne, so keep a virtual eye on the skies.

Update for 2:50 p.m. PT Feb. 23: Tuesday’s balloon launch was scrubbed due to a sensor malfunction. Check the Pegasus II website, blogFacebook and Twitter accounts for word about the next scheduled launch opportunity, probably sometime in March.

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