Preparatives for a balloon launch in Ottumwa

Ottumwa is a small town in Iowa, which is located over the shore of Des Moines River, southeast of the state.

Despite its small size, has an air station located about 5 km north of downtown named as Ottumwa Industrial Airport. This facility has two runways, one 5000 feet long and a smaller onew near 1500 feet in length.

In August 1999, several universities from various states, along with NASA embarked on a research project on "Sprites" a kind of mysterious luminous electrical phenomena that occur over large storm formations between 30 and 100 kilometers tall. This effort consisted in the establishment of various observation posts in ground sites as far away as South Dakota and Minnesota to make coordinated observations of those "Sprites". This included even the use of stratospheric balloons.

In order to obtain images and to record these elusive atmospheric discharges, the balloons were launched from Ottumwa. The main reason to chose this place was because the city is situated on the right side of the so-called "tornado alley" where the biggest storms occur in the summer months and where the chances of observing the phenomenon were obviously greater. Initially, the campaign called for a total of six launches of medium-size balloons, but finally the adverse weather conditions and some technical problems, dropped that number to just two.

Since then the site has not be used for such activities again.

Table of balloons launched from Ottumwa Industrial Airport

DateHourFlight DurationExperimentPayload landing place or cause of the failure
8/14/199923:57 utc13 h 29 m (10 h)SPRITES DETECTION5 miles NW of Carleton, Nebraska, US
8/14/19992:00---SPRITES DETECTIONAborted flight
8/21/199900:39 utc11 h 34 m (8 hr 30 m)SPRITES DETECTION5 miles of Endicott, Nebraska, US