Aerial view of the launch area in Sanriku

The Sanriku balloon center (SBC), was until 2007 the only permanent facility of its kind in Japan able to perform stratospheric balloon launches. It was located in the northeast part of the country, in the Iwate Prefecture on the Pacific Ocean shore, and about 230 meters above sea level in a valley surrounded by mountains.

The facility was operated by the Japanese space agency (JAXA) and was inaugurated in November 1971, concentrating there all the scientific balloon missions that were performed since middle 60's decade from a temporary site established in Taiyomura Prefecture, near Ibaraki and then from Haranomachi in the Fukushima prefecture.

The center counted with a rather small launch area measuring only ​​150 meters long by 30 meters wide, thus to perform the balloon launches was mostly used the vertical technique launch. It also had a complete control center, a hangar for the integration of scientific gondolas and a tracking and telemetry station located in a nearby hill.

Since its opening in 1971 almost 500 balloon launches were performed there ranging from 1000 m3 to 200,000 m3 of volume. Operationally, Sanriku had the uniqueness that all the flights were carried out over the Ocean. Thus the payloads flown were water-tight and also were recovered from the sea surface.

New launch system using a movable platform

To avoid an excessive short flight period due to the withdrawal of the balloon from the base, it was developed a flying technique called "Boomerang": the balloon was launched and flown on a steady course below 20 km of altitude, at that level, the air currents pushed him toward the ocean until reaching the desired turning point. At that moment a certain amount of ballast is released, to let the balloon rose to an altitude of 30 to 40 kms where it was taken by the air currents in reverse direction back to the coast.

In 1998, extension works of the launch pad were made and a new platform fixed to the ground for lifting payloads (right) was installed in the added surface.

This new "semi-dynamic" method allowed for some time to use balloons of larger volume as the platform revolved around its vertical axis and was possible to direct the train in different directions at launch, as well as raise the gondola up to 5 meters above the ground. Theoretically, these improvements would permit the launching of balloons up to 1,000,000 m3 of volume. However, the growing population density in the area and the lack of space forced to move operations to a more open place. Thus in September 2007 was launched the last balloon from Sanriku and was held a ceremony to close the center.

From that moment on, the balloon operations moved far north to the Taiki Aerospace Research Field located in the Hokkaido Island.

Table of balloons launched from Sanriku

DateHourFlight DurationExperimentPayload landing place or cause of the failure
9/3/19719:49 JST---COSMIC DUST--- No Data ---
9/7/19718:56 JST---PARACHUTE TESTING--- No Data ---
9/14/19719:01 JST---MICROSTRUCTURE OF SOLAR DISK--- No Data ---
9/15/19718:34 JST---SOLAR INFRARED--- No Data ---
9/16/197122:25 JST---HEAVY PARTICLES--- No Data ---
9/16/19719:11 JST---SOLAR ULTRAVIOLET--- No Data ---
9/17/197117:27 JST---DIRECTION ADJUSTMENT DEVICE TESTING--- No Data ---
9/18/197116:57 JST---INSTRUMENTAL TESTING FLIGHT--- No Data ---
9/28/197115:47 JST---CYGNUS X-RAYS--- No Data ---
9/30/19719:00 JST---GAMMA RAYS--- No Data ---
10/6/19719:28 JST---ALPHA & HEAVY PARTICLES--- No Data ---
10/7/197116:43 JST---ELECTRIC FIELD--- No Data ---
10/9/197116:47 JST---GALACTIC INFRARED--- No Data ---
1/31/197217:26 JST---FLIGHT TEST--- No Data ---
2/3/197219:56 JST---WHISTLERS (?)--- No Data ---
2/4/19729:01 JST---RUPTURE TEST--- No Data ---
2/6/19728:35 JST---WHISTLERS (?)--- No Data ---
2/12/19727:54 JST---FLIGHT TEST--- No Data ---
2/13/19727:41 JST---FLIGHT TEST--- No Data ---
6/22/19728:30 JST---MAGNETIC FIELD MEASUREMENTS--- No Data ---
6/23/197216:03 JST---WATER VAPOUR--- No Data ---
6/25/19728:00 JST---ULF ATMOSPHERICS--- No Data ---
6/25/197216:05 JST---ION SPECTRA--- No Data ---
6/29/19728:35 JST---FLIGHT TEST--- No Data ---
7/7/19728:23 JST---SOLAR NEUTRONS--- No Data ---
9/6/197217:32 JST---FLIGHT TEST--- No Data ---
9/10/197221:02 JST---NIGHTGLOW INFRARED--- No Data ---
9/12/19729:05 JST---MICROSTRUCTURE OF SOLAR DISK--- No Data ---
9/13/197222:58 JST---ZODIACAL LIGHT--- No Data ---
9/18/197217:21 JST---COSMIC-RAY SHORT PERIOD FLUCTUATION--- No Data ---
9/20/19728:43 JST---SOLAR INFRARED--- No Data ---
9/21/19728:43 JST---SOLAR ULTRAVIOLET--- No Data ---
9/22/19729:36 JST---GALACTIC X-RAYS--- No Data ---
10/5/19728:29 JST---ATMOSPHERIC COMPOSITION--- No Data ---
10/7/19725:25 utc6 h 6 mX-RAY DETECTOR--- No Data ---
10/8/197222:53 JST---ZODIACAL & STELLAR FIELD LIGHTBalloon burst
10/10/197215:38 JST---ATMOSPHERIC ELECTRICITY--- No Data ---
10/12/19728:45 JST---PRIMARY ELECTRONS--- No Data ---
2/1/19738:01 JST---ION SPECTRAPayload was cut off from balloon
2/4/19738:37 JST---FLIGHT TEST--- No Data ---
5/27/197317:37 JST---BOOMERANG FLIGHT TEST--- No Data ---
6/5/197319:04 JST---PRIMARY ELECTRONS (Boomerang Flight)--- No Data ---
9/15/19738:06 JST---MICROSTRUCTURE OF SOLAR DISK--- No Data ---
9/28/1973------COSMIC-RAY SHORT PERIOD FLUCTUATIONBalloon Ruptured on ground
9/29/197317:20 JST---FLIGHT TEST--- No Data ---
10/1/197320:42 JST---NIGHTGLOW (O2 & OH)--- No Data ---
10/2/197322:45 JST---ZODIACAL LIGHT--- No Data ---
10/3/19738:00 JST---SOLAR X-RAYS--- No Data ---
10/6/19738:26 JST---INSTRUMENTAL TESTING FLIGHT--- No Data ---
10/9/19738:29 JST---X-RAY DETECTOR--- No Data ---
10/12/19738:19 JST---ION SPECTRA--- No Data ---
10/18/197316:27 JST---ELECTRIC FIELD & GRAVITY WAVES--- No Data ---
10/24/197316:05 JST---GAMMA RAY SHOWERBalloon Burst
1/26/197411:26 JST---FLIGHT TEST (NYLON-12 FILM)--- No Data ---
1/27/19749:54 JST---WHISTLERS (?)--- No Data ---
5/28/197418:49 JST---COSMIC-RAY SHORT PERIOD FLUCTUATION--- No Data ---
5/30/197412:22 JST---PHOTOCHEMISTRY OF THE STRATOSPHERE--- No Data ---
6/4/197417:04 JST---MAGNETIC FIELD MEASUREMENTSBoomerang flight. Balloon Burst
6/7/197419:44 JST---HIGH ENERGY PARTICLESBoomerang flight
6/13/197419:39 JST---PRIMARY COSMIC RAYSBoomerang flight. Balloon Burst
6/15/197414:58 JST---ATMOSPHERIC COMPOSITION--- No Data ---
6/23/197420:46 JST---AIRGLOW & ZODIACAL LIGHT--- No Data ---
9/11/19747:25 JST---SOLAR ULTRAVIOLETLaunch failure
9/13/197421:10 JST---BAT-1 (Balloon-Borne Astronomical Telescope)--- No Data ---
10/6/19748:56 JST---LEVEL TEST FLIGHT--- No Data ---
10/8/19748:10 JST---INSTRUMENTAL TESTING FLIGHT--- No Data ---
10/8/197415:51 JST---INSTRUMENTAL TESTING FLIGHT--- No Data ---
5/23/197517:42 JST---COSMIC-RAY SHORT PERIOD FLUCTUATION--- No Data ---
5/25/19757:40 JST---ATMOSPHERIC COMPOSITION--- No Data ---
5/29/19757:12 JST---MAGNETIC FIELD MEASUREMENTSBoomerang flight.
5/30/197518:04 JST---ULTRA HIGH ENERGY PARTICLESBoomerang flight. Balloon burst.
6/13/197519:39 JST---AIRGLOW & ZODIACAL LIGHT--- No Data ---
6/16/197518:29 JST---GALACTIC INFRARED OBSERVATION--- No Data ---
6/17/197518:31 JST---BAT-1 (Balloon-Borne Astronomical Telescope)--- No Data ---
6/20/19757:27 JST---INSTRUMENTAL TESTING (BOOMERANG PROGRAMMED FLIGHT)--- No Data ---
9/9/197520:19 JST7 h 30 mINFRARED TELESCOPE--- No Data ---
9/11/19757:38 JST---SOLAR ULTRAVIOLET--- No Data ---
9/16/19757:46 JST---MICROSTRUCTURE OF SOLAR DISKBalloon Burst
9/23/19758:33 JST---FLIGHT TEST--- No Data ---
9/24/197517:07 JST120 hGAMMA RAY BURST OBSERVATION--- No Data ---
10/4/197516:08 JST---HERCULES & CYGNUS X-RAYS--- No Data ---
10/6/197516:34 JST---ATMOSPHERIC ELECTRIC FIELD--- No Data ---
10/9/19757:41 JST---OZONE MEASUREMENTS--- No Data ---
10/11/19758:50 JST---IONS & AEROSOLS MEASUREMENTS--- No Data ---
5/22/1976 26 h 30 mPRIMARY COSMIC RAYS (Boomerang Flight)--- No Data ---
5/29/19769:18 utc9 h 44 mBAT-1 (Balloon-Borne Astronomical Telescope)Near Mount Chokai, Tohoku, Japan
5/20/1977 12 hMAGNETIC FIELD MEASUREMENTS--- No Data ---
5/21/1977 9 h 20 mFAR INFRARED TELESCOPE--- No Data ---
5/22/1977 8 h 4 mXENON PROPORTIONAL COUNTER--- No Data ---
8/29/1977 6 h 10 mSTRATOSPHERIC RADIATION--- No Data ---
8/30/1977 10 h 30 mSTRATOSPHERIC COMPOSITION STUDIES--- No Data ---
8/31/19778:45 utc6 h 45 mFAR INFRARED TELESCOPE--- No Data ---
9/2/1977 17 h 33 mSOLAR DISC OBSERVATION BY TELESCOPE--- No Data ---
9/16/1977 12 h 35 mBAT-1 (Balloon-Borne Astronomical Telescope)--- No Data ---
9/27/1977 ---X-RAY SOURCES OBSERVATIONBalloon burst at 15 km
9/28/1977 78 h 40 mGAMMA RAY DETECTOR--- No Data ---
9/30/197717:12 jst28 hGAMMA RAY DETECTOR--- No Data ---
10/3/1977 27 h 40 mATMOSPHERIC ELECTRICITY MEASUREMENTS--- No Data ---
10/6/1977 8 h 59 mBALLOON RELAY EXPERIMENT--- No Data ---
10/6/1977 8 h 22 mBALLOON RELAY EXPERIMENT--- No Data ---
5/25/1978 ---FAR INFRARED TELESCOPE--- No Data ---
9/1/197818:16 jst BAT-1 (Balloon-Borne Astronomical Telescope)--- No Data ---
10/4/1978 ---PARACHUTE DEPLOYMENT TEST--- No Data ---
5/??/1979 29 hJACEE 0 (Japanese-American Collaborative Emulsion Experiment)--- No Data ---
8/29/1979 ---FAR INFRARED TELESCOPE--- No Data ---
9/17/1979 ---DROP TEST FOR REEFING--- No Data ---
5/13/1980 ---AUTOMATIC SYSTEM TO CONTROL BALLOON ALTITUDE--- No Data ---
5/29/1980 ---PARACHUTE DEPLOYMENT TEST--- No Data ---
9/30/1980 ---MICROGRAVITY TEST--- No Data ---
6/3/1981 ---TELESCOPE--- No Data ---
6/10/1981 ---MICROGRAVITY TEST--- No Data ---
9/2/19817:34 jst---SAKURA (Cryogenic Sampler)--- No Data ---
9/21/1981 ---GLIDING PARACHUTE TEST--- No Data ---
5/24/1982 ---NEAR INFRARED RADIOMETER--- No Data ---
9/6/1982 10 h 7 mPRIMARY COSMIC RAYS (Boomerang Flight)--- No Data ---
8/28/19837:14 jst~ 6 hSAKURA (Cryogenic Sampler)--- No Data ---
9/6/1983 ---MICROGRAVITY EXPERIMENT--- No Data ---
9/26/1983 ---STRATOSPHERIC TURBULENCE STUDIES--- No Data ---
5/17/1984 10 hSTRATOSPHERIC TURBULENCE STUDIES--- No Data ---
9/7/1984 ---SAKURA (Cryogenic Sampler)--- No Data ---
9/8/1984 F 12 hPARTICLE IMPACTOR--- No Data ---
9/3/1985 ---SAKURA (Cryogenic Sampler)--- No Data ---
9/6/19857:00 JST---S520 ROCKET PAYLOAD DROP TEST--- No Data ---
9/24/1985 ---GLIDING PARACHUTE TEST--- No Data ---
6/1/1986 ---S520 ROCKET PAYLOAD DROP TEST--- No Data ---
6/3/1986 ---GLIDING PARACHUTE TEST--- No Data ---
5/25/1989 22 h 10 mEMULSION CHAMBER--- No Data ---
9/1/1989 ---SAKURA (Cryogenic Sampler)--- No Data ---
6/4/1990 ---SAKURA (Cryogenic Sampler)--- No Data ---
6/1/19947:00 local14 hHEAVY COSMIC PARTICLES DETECTORPayload recovered from the sea near the Oga peninsula in Japan
9/3/1994  BICE (Balloon-borne Infrared Carbon Explorer)--- No Data ---
6/8/19956:41 local~ 10 hOZONE CRYOGENIC SAMPLING INSTRUMENTIn the Pacific Ocean 20 km south-east of Ofunato Port, Iwate Prefecture
9/13/19957:19 jst~ 14 hBETS (Balloon-borne Electron Telescope with Scintillating fibers)--- No Data ---
6/6/1996 ---SAKURA (Cryogenic sampler)--- No Data ---
9/4/1996 ---MUSES-C PROBE PARACHUTE TEST--- No Data ---
9/6/1996 ---SAKURA (Cryogenic sampler)--- No Data ---
9/13/1996 35 hEMULSION CHAMBER--- No Data ---
5/30/1997 ---SAKURA (Cryogenic sampler)--- No Data ---
6/2/1997 5 hBETS (Balloon borne Electron Telescope with Scintillating fibers)--- No Data ---
9/9/199710:50 jst---A balloon-borne resonance fluorescence instrument for in-situ measurement of Ozone.--- No Data ---
5/24/1998 ---BETS (Balloon borne Electron Telescope with Scintillating fibers)--- No Data ---
9/6/1998 3 hFIRBE (Far InfraRed Balloon-borne Experiment)On the sea, near the launch site.
9/9/1998 ---MUSES-C PROBE PARACHUTE TEST--- No Data ---
9/1/1999 3 h 15 mUTLTRA THIN BALLOON TEST--- No Data ---
9/2/19996:55 jst6 h 55 mBETS (Balloon-borne Electron Telescope with Scintillating fibers)--- No Data ---
6/5/20006:30 jst11 h 10 mBETS (Balloon-borne Electron Telescope with Scintillating fibers)Pacific Ocean near the launch site
8/28/200007:13 local3 h 44 mCRYOGENIC SAMPLER--- No Data ---
8/30/200010:10 local2 h 45 mSTRATOSPHERIC OZONE--- No Data ---
5/18/20017:37 local4 h 5 mCUBESAT BUS SYSTEM TESTPacific Ocean
5/20/2001 6 h 12 mCUBESAT BUS SYSTEM TEST--- No Data ---
5/23/2001 40 h 50 mEMULSION CHAMBER--- No Data ---
5/30/2001 6 h 40 mCRYOGENIC SAMPLER--- No Data ---
6/4/2001V17 h 55 mAUTOBALLASTING SYSTEM TEST--- No Data ---
8/28/2001 3 h 45 mOBSERVATION OF STRATOSPHERIC OZONE--- No Data ---
8/29/20016:30 jst5 h 7 mHARD X-RAY SPECTROMETER--- No Data ---
9/1/20016:00 jst4 h 50 mATMOSPHERIC SAMPLER--- No Data ---
9/3/20018:50 jst7 h 39 mBETS (Balloon-borne Electron Telescope with Scintillating fibers) - Solar panels test--- No Data ---
9/6/2001 4 h 50 mULTRA THIN FILM BALLOON TEST--- No Data ---
5/17/2002 3 h 15 mGPS SYSTEM TEST--- No Data ---
5/23/20026:35 jst---ULTRA THIN FILM BALLOON TEST--- No Data ---
5/24/20026:45 jst~ 11 hHARD X-RAY SPECTROMETERA parachute failure caused the instrument to land harder than intended and as a result of the impact resulted partially destroyed.
5/30/20026:35 jst~ 5 hPOLAR BESS - Solar Array Test--- No Data ---
6/3/2002 5 h 20 mLOW FREQUENCY EMISSIONS MEASUREMENTS--- No Data ---
9/4/2002 ---CRYOGENIC SAMPLER--- No Data ---
9/5/2002 2 h 50 mOPTICAL OZONE SONDE--- No Data ---
9/9/2002 14 h 15 mAUTO LEVEL CONTROL SYSTEM--- No Data ---
9/12/2002 4 h 50 mATMOSPHERIC MEASUREMENTS--- No Data ---
8/23/20036:27 jst3 hSOLAR SAILOn the sea 20 km E of Touni Bay, Japan
8/30/20036:22 jst~ 6 hBSMILES (Balloon-borne Superconducting Submillimeter-Wave Limb-Emission Sounder)In the sea 40 km off the E coast of Miyako, Japan
9/1/20036:20 jst~ 4 hMACFT (Membrane Aeroshell Capsule Flight Test)On the Pacific Ocean, near japanese shore.
9/3/200317:37 jst~ 7 hSi/CdTe semiconductor Compton telescope (Prototype)--- No Data ---
5/22/2004 3 h 17 mEngineering flight of ultra-thin high-altitude balloon--- No Data ---
5/28/2004 3 h 35 mEngineering flight of ultra-thin high-altitude balloon--- No Data ---
5/30/2004 ---MSC (Micro Segment Chamber)--- No Data ---
6/3/2004 6 h 40 mX-RAY observation--- No Data ---
6/5/2004 2 h 30 mEngineering flight of super-pressure balloon--- No Data ---
8/25/20047:30 jst---Search for UV-tolerant microbe and observation of neutron flux--- No Data ---
8/28/20046:31 jst~ 4 hMACFT (Membrane Aeroshell Capsule Flight Test)On the Pacific Ocean, near japanese shore.
9/4/20049:00 jst---ATMOSPHERIC GRAVITY WAVES + OZONE OBSERVATION--- No Data ---
9/5/20048:50 jst---STRATOSPHERIC OZONE MEASUREMENTS--- No Data ---
9/6/20046:44 jst---CRYOGENIC SAMPLER--- No Data ---
9/7/20046:30 jst~ 6 hBSMILES (Balloon-borne Superconducting Submillimeter-Wave Limb-Emission Sounder)In the sea at 142º14'E - 39º21'N
5/21/2005 1 h 13 mSUPER THIN FILM HIGH ALTITUDE BALLOON FLIGHT TEST--- No Data ---
5/25/200518:56 JST~ 4hNUSMIT (Nagoya University SuperMirror Imaging Telescope experiment) - Test flightIn the ocean shore near Sanriku
5/29/2005 5 h 7 mSOLAR SAIL--- No Data ---
6/2/2005 4 h 34 mSUPER PRESSURE BALLOON FLIGHT TEST--- No Data ---
6/6/2005 23 h 5 mSTRATOSPHERIC MICROBIAL COLLECTION--- No Data ---
8/22/2005 ---High Energy electron and atmospheric gamma-ray observationsNo flight. The balloon burst at launch.
8/28/20057:40 jst---ATMOSPHERIC GRAVITY WAVES + OZONE OBSERVATIONAt 141º 56' N - 39º 45' W, in the Japan Sea.
8/29/200518:00 jst---Observation of the VLF radio wave which accompanies noctilucence and lightning discharge.--- No Data ---
5/27/20066:04 jst~ 3 hBOV-1 (Balloon-based Operation Vehicle)In the Japan Sea
5/31/20066:00 jst6 h 20 mbCALET-1 (Balloon-Borne CALorimetric Electron Telescope)In the Pacific Ocean
6/13/2006 12 h 5 mPHENEX (Polarimetry for High ENErgy X rays)--- No Data ---
8/25/200618:33 jst~ 5 hSPRITE OBSERVATIONIn the Pacific Ocean
8/30/20066:10 jst3 h 10 mSOLAR SAILIn the Pacific Ocean
9/1/20066:11 jst7 h 38 mSMILE (Sub-MeV Gamma-Ray Imaging Loaded-on-Balloon Experiment)In the Pacific Ocean
5/18/20075:55 JST2 mTECHNOLOGICAL FLIGHT OF A BALLOON MADE OF ULTRA THIN MATERIAL500 Mts from the launch base.
5/29/20076:03 jst4 h 25 mBOV-2 (Balloon-based Operation Vehicle)On the sea 30 km E of Kamaishi, Japan
6/4/20076:00 jst7 h 57 mCRYOGENIC SAMPLER35 km from the shoreline of Kamaishi, Japan
6/15/200715:05 jst8 h 45 mFITE (Far-Infrared Interferometric Telescope Experiment) - Systems TestIn the Pacific Ocean, 60 km from Iwate
8/29/2007 5 h 5 mPOINTING SYSTEM TEST--- No Data ---
8/30/20076:02 jst3 h 20 mTEST OF FUEL CELL AND AUTOMATIC CONTROL FALL SYSTEMIn the Pacific Ocean, 20 km from Iwate. Balloon near Towadako
9/13/20076:51 JST3 h 30 mOZONE OBSERVATION + CRISTAL BAROMETER TEST + GRAVITY WAVESIn the Ocean, near 100 kms from the shore line in front at Izaki, Japan