Weekly Balloon News #6 - November 24th 2022
Recent balloon launches and landings
Again this week anything to report here. I will give Aerostar's HBAL610 -the only balloon presumably in flight- another week before dropping it from the "In flight" list. In the past, I've experienced long blank periods with Aerostar balloons in excursions to exotic areas off the ADS-B coverage: when I thought that their flight was over, all the sudden the balloon appeared for a brief period of time close to a tiny island in the middle of nowhere. That was occured with HBAL 484, with HBAL 490 or HBAL 582 just to mention the three most recent examples.
Although it is not a recent "landing", this week I came across a curious incident that occurred in the state of Oregon at the end of August and that finished explaining a curious and short flight of a Near Space Corporation (NSC) balloon from which I reported in the first issue of this newsletter.
NSC launched a balloon on August 31 from their facility -known as the Johnson Near Space Center- in Tillamook but merely an hour after the balloon was back on ground or to be more precise on water. Probable due to a malfunction the balloon returned to earth and ended in the Columbia River not so far from the city of Scappoose in Columbia County. I was able to locate even a video of the very moment on which the gas bag is plumeting to the water freaking out some families that were enjoying a calm beach day. The balloon was recovered that same day in a joint effort between the Scappoose Fire District, Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue, Sauvie Island Fire District and the U.S. Coast Guard. An account of the incident can be readed in the St. Helens Chronicle website.
What's on in the field
The restrictions in arrivals from the continent to McMurdo station in Antarctica that the National Science Foundation impossed to stop the COVID-19 outbreak that started in late October, are relaxing a bit. This allows more scientists to arrive at the station for their research tasks during the upcoming austral summer. While the delay wasn't huge, it was long enough to affect NASA's balloon program plans for the season.
This week, the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility updated their launch schedule for the 2022/2023 long duration balloon campaign, and dropped from the list two of the three flights planned. The only one remaining is the SPIDER experiment, designed to search for primordial gravity waves imprinted on the cosmic microwave background (CMB). The two other missions were meant to transport two small scientific experiments under a 60 million cubic feet balloon, in what woould be an epic first with the largest balloon ever flown over the continent. The experiments that will now must wait their turn to fly were BOOMS, or Balloon Observation of Microburst Scales, designed at Montana State University to observe flashes of X-ray light that sporadically appear in the polar atmosphere and AESOP-Lite a magnetic spectrometer developed at University of Delaware, to search for the origin of low-energy in the electron spectrum between 10-300 MeV.
And by the way, don't forget to visit from time to time the three main sources for fresh news from the ice this season: SPIDER's tweeter account, the website of Elle Shaw, physics PhD student at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign participating of the launch campaign and the revived blog of Jeff Filippini, a cosmologist from the University of Illinois and member of the team that also will be reporting from the ice.
This week an article appeared in the Washington Post with the title What are your passenger rights in space?. The piece wrote by Christopher Elliott explore the grey zones of the space tourism boom and specially the lack of oversight on how space flight companies handle delays, cancellations and refunds.
While the article deals primarily with space tourism, Spaces Perspectives, the Florida-based company that plans to offer balloon rides into near space, is also mentioned. After some research the author affirms that "The (Space Perspectives) contract does not address refunds for any failure to operate a flight. However, its flight reservations form says it offers no warranty to commence commercial operations of its vehicles within any time frame, "or even at all". In this sense, Jane Poynter, the CEO of the company sayd that they are finalizing the details of its terms and conditions for commercial flights starting in late 2024. It plans to include policies for canceled flights, last-minute passenger opt-outs and rescheduling.
She added that "...Explorers can expect to see these posted on our website and given to them individually well prior to providing their final payments...". The company is planning to offer six-hours stratospheric trips at $125,000 the seat starting in late 2024.
Balloon image of the day
Since April 2021, I have published through my Twitter account (@stratoballoon) -at first daily and then more spaced out- a series of images from my archives that reflect important or curious moments in the history of scientific ballooning. Now, every week I will be including some of those posts in this newsletter. Those who want to see more similar content can do so by exploring the hashtag #BalloonImageOfTheDay
New contents in StratoCat
This week, I was able to complete the balloon launch reports from a single, but important, balloon launch campaign carried out in 1961 in India.
From February to April that year, scientists from India and the United States participated in a cooperative field operation at Hyderabad , India, to perform an extended series of high-altitude balloon flights carrying a variety of scientific instruments to probe the tropical stratosphere. Known as the Joint Indo-US Balloon Flight Program - 1961 the project was a remarkably successful example of scientific cooperation between the two countries. Mutual interest, techniques, instrumentation, facilities, and personnel were exchanged and shared to accomplish a common purpose: the extension of studies on cosmic-ray intensities, radioactive and natural aerosol distribution, wind circulation patterns, and other atmospheric parameters to the equatorial stratosphere.
The instruments flown ranged from Nuclei Counters and Sub-Micron Aerosol Collectors to heavy emulsion stacks to study cosmic radiation.
The table below contains links to the reports of all the balloon flights launched and managed by the United States during the campaign. All those flights were launched from the Begupmet Aerodrome in Secunderabad.
As usual, all the flight reports are full of technical details, pictures -when available- and external references on peer-reviewed papers, freely available thanks to Sci-Hub and the open access community.
See you in seven days.
Balloons in flight (updated 24-Nov-2022 )
|Launched from||In flight since||Payload or experiment||Last known status|
| Raven campus, Baltic (SD)||10/18/2022||THUNDERHEAD FLIGHT 610||STATUS UNKNOWN --> Last Known Position|
Last completed balloon flights (updated 24-Nov-2022 )