Breaking news

  •     20/8/2014 NASA performed the first two missions of the fall balloon launch campaign at Ft. Sumner, New Mexico. The missions were HASP and HySICS/WASP
  •     Still rest to perform another 8 flights during the remainder of August and September.
  •     21/8/2014 The opening flight of the Strato-Science 2014 balloon launch campaign at the Timmins Stratospheric Balloon Base, in Ontario was performed today.
  •     Another 8 balloons ranging from 100.000 m3 to 800.000 m3 of volume will be launched during the remainder of August and September including payloads from Europe and also from Canada as flight opportunities.
  •     22/8/2014 The Japanese Space Agency performed over the Pacific Ocean a drop test of the BOV experiment aimed to obtain seconds of microgravity during the free-fall from the stratosphere.
  •     This was the first balloon launch from Taiki Aerospace Research Field in northern Japan since the balloon failure suffered in June 2013 trying to launch this same experiment.
  •     Stay tuned to StratoCat your number one source of information on worldwide scientific ballooning. Find us on twitter at @Stratoballoon.

JPL-Remote mission at NASA's balloon campaign - 9/14/2014

Fort Sumner, New Mexico.- After a hiatus of 20 days due to the bad meteorological conditions prevailing in southwestern U.S. due to the presence of the tropical storm "Norbert" in the west coast, a new balloon flight of NASA's fall balloon launch campaign was carried out this weekend from the Scientific Balloon Flight Facility in Fort Sumner, New Mexico.

The mission was nomenclated as 652n (the "n" meaning a balloon flight launched from other location than Palestine, Texas, the main -but inactive for flights- launch base of the NASA balloon program) and was launched minutes after 15:00 utc on September 13.

After a slow ascent phase, the balloon reached float altitude of 126.000 ft at 17:45 utc and started to move in a northwestward path over the western part of New Mexico. While the balloon moved near the Albuquerque area and the evening approached, the eyes of hundreds of New Mexicans were surprised by the presence in the skies of the region of a bright object, as we can see in one of the many images taken.

The event was followed by several news stations like KOAT, KRQE and KOB4.

The flight continued during the entire night, but as the balloon descended due to the cooling of the helium inside, it assumed a different path this time due to the southwest. This will lead the craft to enter the airspace of Arizona, until at 14:11 utc the payload was separated from the balloon ending the flight.

After 40 minutes of descent under a cargo parachute, the payload landed very close to the interstate border near the unincorporated community of Lupton, Arizona. Total flight time was 23 hours.

This flight -which was the fourth of this year's campaign- transported an experiment called JPL REMOTE which is composed by the MkIV Interferometer, a Fourier Transform Infra-Red Spectrometer, designed and built at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1984, that uses the solar occultation technique, whereby solar spectra are measured as the Sun rises or sets, either as a result of the Earth's rotation or as a result of changes in the balloon altitude. The effort was born out of concern that man-made pollutants (e.g. chlorofluorocarbons, aircraft exhaust) might perturb the ozone layer. Since 1989, the MkIV Interferometer has successfully completed 22 balloon flights, mostly from Ft. Sumner.

Stay tuned to this pages and our Twitter account (@stratoballoon) for more information on the NASA balloon campaign which is at its highest point.

At full steam the balloon campaign in Canada - 9/11/2014

Timmins, Ontario.- Two more scientific missions were carried out in the last weeks in the framework of the balloon launch campaign denominated Strato Science 2014. The effort is being carried together by the space agencies from France and Canada, since early August, at the Timmins Stratospheric Balloon Base in Ontario.

View of the EDS balloon being inflated (image copyright: KIT) The first mission (nomenclated NIMBUS-3 following the convention of adding the flight number to the word NIMBUS) used a 100Z balloon with a volume of 100.000 m3, and transported an experiment denominated EdS (Effet de Serre) which is french for greenhouse effect. As a matter of fact, EdS was composed not by a unique instrument but several ones, all aimed to study the same scientific area.

The instruments carried were two laser diode spectrometers denominated PicoSDLA that measure gas concentrations (one CH4 and the other CO2) developed by the University of Reims; AIRCORE-Ufi the only not-French instrument, built by the University of Frankfurt in Germany aimed to measure greenhouse gases; a particle counter denominated LOAC developed by the Laboratory of Physics and Chemistry of the Environment and Space (LPC2E) in Orleans; and finally the quartet composed by AIRCORE-HR, that also measures greenhouse effect gases, B-bop that performs Ozone measurements, Sawfphy aimed to trace the water vapour concentration and Tsen to obtain pressure and temperature, all developed under the aegis of the Dynamic Meteorology Laboratory (LMD).

Besides the fact that all these instruments are focused in the same area of atmospheric study (greenhouse effect) another similarity is that they are all candidates to take part of the future STRATEOLE-2 campaign in 2018, to be carried out using smaller superpressure balloons. CNES choose for evaluation purposes a very wise aproach: instead of performing several balloon flights with small balloons, the agency accomodated all the payloads in a single modular platform and used a only mission to test them all. That platform, denominated CASOLBA (CAlibration de cellules SOLaires sur vol BAllon french for Balloon-Borne Solar Cell Calibration) was developed in 1975 by CNES to transport a module containing solar cells to be calibrated to be used in different projects. Now, that gondola was reconverted to serve other tasks, proving once more the ductility of CNES's modular design of balloon platforms.

The balloon was launched at 20:34 local time, a bit later than expected due to the fact that the operations were halted for a while to allow the landing of two airplanes at the Victor M. Power airport, where the base is located. After a nominal ascent, the balloon reached float altitude and once there, the ground control activated the top valve to release some helium and to start a descent to an altitude of 20 km. When the craft reached that flight level, it drifted during 6 hours while making a very slow descent up to slightly above the air security limit of 18 km.

View of the MIPAS gondola receiving the last minute preparations (image copyright: KIT) Next morning, when the phase of scientific observations for the flight was completed, the payload was separated from the balloon at 7:35 local time on August 29, landing about 100 km SSW of the city of Val d'Or, in Quebec province. For the first time since the inception of the campaign, both elements came to rest on solid and dry ground. Total flight time was near 11 hours.

The second mission, NIMBUS-4 was performed the following week, and involved also the launch of a multi-instrumented gondola, similar in shape to the one used for EDS flight, as can be seen in the image at right.

The main instrument onboard was MIPAS-B which stands for Michelson Interferometer for Passive Atmospheric Sounding - Balloon. It is an infrared spectrometer developed by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology of the University of the State of Baden-Wuerttemberg, that allows precise limb emission sounding of chemical constituents related to the stratospheric ozone problem and the greenhouse effect.

The measurements made by MIPAS-B are complemented with other two instruments operating in the same gondola: TELIS acronym of TErahertz and submillimeter LImbSounder a three-channel heterodyne spectrometer developed at the Remote Sensing Technology Institute of DLR, and mini-DOAS which means Differential Optical Absorption Spectroscopy and is an spectrometer that operates in the ultraviolet / visible tange of the spectrum. It is a miniaturized version of the DOAS instrument developed for balloon missions by Heidelberg University.

The combination of these three instruments performing simultaneous measurements from the stratosphere allows to measure at once about 40 ozone, and climate-relevant trace gases. On this regard, a key part of the platform is the pointing and stabilization system of the gondola which was developed by KIT's IMK-ASF and ensures that all three instruments measure the same air mass.

The weight of the full loaded gondola was of 760 kg and for the launch was used a French-built 400z Zodiac balloon measuring 400.000 m3 of volume.

View of the MIPAS balloon just released (image copyright: CSA)
The mission, originally scheduled for September 3, was delayed due to the weather being finally launched on September 7 at 15:19 utc, under windy conditions and -as we can see in the image above- with a cloud-capped sky.

After a flawlessly ascent to float altitude of 40 km, the balloon drifted eastward. At this point and after the sunset it was clearly visible in the evening sky by inhabitants of Swastika, in Ontario, who contacted us by email asking the origin of the strange apparition. The mission developed without troubles along the 19 hours of the flight and termination was executed when the balloon was over the Quebec Province.

Landing occured at 10:08 local time near the city of Senneterre, the same spot of landing of the first balloon launched from Timmins in 2013.

In all, the flight was a sound success in the scientific side as well in the technical side as the mission served also to succesfully test for the first time a new landing configuration using a combination of parachutes measuring 200 m2, coupled to the new NOSYCA control system.

Stay tuned for more news on the campaign. Still are waiting a few more balloon launches at Timmins.

Flight test in the Arctic for the OLIMPO experiment - 9/4/2014

Longyearbyen, Svalbard Islands.-A team from the Department of Physics of the University of Rome, La Sapienza has performed recently a stratospheric balloon flight in the Arctic. The balloon, with a volume of 35.000 m3 was launched from the main runway of the Longyearbyen airport, in the Svalbard archipelago on August 17. After reaching float altitude of 37 km it traveled around the north pole until termination which was carried out 8 days later.

The objective of the flight was to test a new telemetry and flight control system specially designed for the OLIMPO project.

View of the balloon ascending over Longyearbyen (image: Silvia Masi)OLIMPO stands for Osservatorio nel Lontano Infrarosso Montato su Pallone Orientabile, (italian for Steerable Balloon-Borne Far-Infrared Observatory) and is an experiment devoted to perform cosmological and astrophysical surveys in the milimeter and sub-milimeter range. The experiment will be launched in the near future from that same spot at Longyearbyen in a polar long duration balloon mission, and a couple of years later from Antarctica.

The payload of the balloon launched in last August, which we can see while ascending in the image, included an advanced on-board computer, the telemetry system Iridium-pilot modified for the operation in stratospheric balloons and other subsystems of the OLIMPO experiment. The entire platform -which was powered using a solar panel array- had a total weight of 39 kg.

The hardware of the future OLIMPO experiment consists of a large (2.6m diameter) milimeter/sub-milimeter telescope with scanning capabilities, coupled to a multifrequency array of bolometers and a precision attitude control system. It's main objective is to obtain sensitive maps of the mm/sub-mm sky in high resolution, with optimal frequency coverage for the detection of the Sunyaev-Zeldovich effect, the determination of Galaxies Cluster parameters and control of foreground/background contamination.

Both the pointing system and the cryogenic system of OLIMPO are built on the experience gained with the BOOMERanG experiment, which performed several long duration balloon flights in Antarctica in 1998 and 2003 that produced groundbreaking discoveries regarding the Cosmic microwave background radiation.

OLIMPO is an Italian programme funded by the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and led by Silvia Masi of the Department of Physics of the Universita di Roma "La Sapienza" along with a international collaboration participating in several elements of the instruments and scientific exchange. The launch of the future polar flight will be also managed by the Univerity of Rome under contract with ASI.

Technical flight at NASA's balloon campaign - 9/1/2014

Fort Sumner, New Mexico.- Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility launched on August 24 the third balloon of the NASA's fall campaign that the agency is developing since early August from the installations of the Scientific Balloon Flight Facility located in Fort Sumner, New Mexico.

Althought at the moment of writing this report, we have not the details of the payload onboard, what we know for sure is that the mission (numbered as flight 651N) was a flight to perform several tests on systems related to long duration balloon missions.

The balloon was launched at 13:55 utc and after ascending flawlesly and slowly during the next 2 hours and a half, it reached it's float altitude of 123.000 ft at 16:23 utc.

As occured in the previous flights of the campaign, our good friend David L. Tremblay (a.k.a. "the balloon hunter") obtained several images of the balloon from his home in Alto (NM), this time a little closer "merely" at a distance distance of 80 miles of the balloon. The composite image show the balloon expanding as it gain altitude from 80.000 ft at left to the final altitude of 123.000 ft at right. The full series and the previous one are published by Tremblay in his website.

Composite view of the balloon at four different altitudes. The picture was taken near Ruidoso (NM) (image copyright: David Tremblay)
The balloon moved in a southwest course at an average speed of 40 knots/hour during most of the flight. At 19:42 utc it crossed over the Rio Grande just south of the city of Socorro, and 20 minutes later the payload was separated from the balloon minutes before 20:00 utc.

The impressive landing calculation made by CSBF led the payload to rest in the valley just between Mt. Wittington and South Baldy mountain in Socorro County. Total flight time was 6 hours 30 minutes.

Next mission of the campaign will be devoted to the experience JPL Remote whose main instrument is the MkIV Interferometer, a Fourier Transform Infra-Red Spectrometer, designed and built at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1984, to remotely sense the composition of the Earth's atmosphere by the technique of solar absorption spectrometry. This will be it's flight number 23 since the inaugural flight also at Ft.Sumner in 1989.

Stay tuned !

First scientific mission at Timmins: EUSO-Balloon - 8/31/2014

Timmins, Ontario.- The first balloon mission strictly made for scientific purposes since the inception of the Stratos program and the establishment of the Timmins Stratospheric Balloon Base was carried out in August 24, as part of Strato Science 2014, the first scientific campaign at the new facility.

The mission nomenclated following the convention established for the campaign as NIMBUS-2 was performed using a french-built stratospheric balloon with a volume of 400.000 m3 achieving a total flight time of more than 8 hours.

View of the EUSO-balloon gondola at the integration building in Timmins (image: Etienne Parizot)The payload flown was an instrument denominated EUSO (Extreme Universe Space Observatory) - Balloon which is an exploratory mission of JEM-EUSO, a future space telescope to be installed in 2017 in the Japanese Experiment Module of the International Space Station. The purpose of JEM-EUSO is to identify the astrophysical nature and origin of high energy cosmic rays. These are the most energetic particles known in the universe, reaching energies near 1020 eV (60 Joules), whose origin is still uncertain. The method to be used for detecting these particles is to observe the trail of fluorescence denominated Extensive Air Showers (EAS) which is left when the cosmic rays collide with other particles in earth's atmosphere.

The mission is part of a multinational project involving more than 340 scientists from 86 institutes of 16 different countries.

The balloon payload that took part in the recent flight was developed mainly by the Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie of France, with the collaboration of several teams from other countries whom are part of the entire community of the JEM-EUSO effort. The instrument itself is composed by a single photon detection module (PDM) coupled to an optical system made of three Fresnel lenses that represents a scaled down configuration using real prototypes of the system to be installed onboard the ISS.

The system is allocated inside a gondola specialy designed and built for the project by the balloon division of the French space agency CNES. At left we can see an image of this gondola while being readied for flight at the integration building in the Timmins base. It count with two compartments: the bottom half (in red in the picture) is where are installed the detector unit, the lenses and the infrared camera, while the top part houses all the electronics of the instrument.

The size of the full structure is 2.7 meters of width by 3.8 meters of height, including the circular legs made of aluminum aimed to absorb the impact of a rough landing. The total mass with the instrument installed is around 400 kg.

As the gondola was designed taking account of a possible landing at sea, both compartments are waterproof. Also to prevent the sinking of the structure polystyrene floaters (in white in the picture) were added at the top half. Besides the fact that was not expected a landing at sea for this campaign, future plans for EUSO-balloon contemplate a possible flight from Aire Sur L'Adour in 2016 with recovery from the sea. Nevertheless, this measure proved to be more than adequate taking account of the myriad of lakes, marshes and wetlands that populates the flight zone of the balloon, and as we will see, given the circumstances of how the mission ended.

In addition to the full-scale end-to-end test of the JEM-EUSO detection technique, other scientific goals of the flight were the experimental determination of the effective UV background below 40 km, the test of the ground based calibration system, the measurement of the background "noise" both natural and man-made and lucky enough, the obtention of the first UV-image of Extensive Air Showers looking down on the Earth's atmosphere. To achieve these goals, several flight conditions had to be meet: the observation period should be at least 3 hours, the flight had to take place at night with less than a quarter of the full moon in the sky, and partially overflying zones of intense artificial illumination like cities or industrial areas.

View of the inflation of the 400z balloon at Timmins (image copyright: CNES)

After several weeks of hard labour, the instrument was ready to flight. So based on the flight requirements and the weather forecasts, the first launch attempt was initially planned for the evening of August 23. The scientific team was anxious to take the first launch opportunity as the next days showed a considerable deterioration of the weather, which was a constant since the begining of the campaign. First complication arose during the afternoon with the discovery of a defective iridium modem in the back-up chain of the CNES communication system. However, the problem was fixed and the preparations continued, but then, when the payload was ready to be taken to the launch field, the CNES team found that a battery of the Nacelle Envelope (which helps to track and locate the balloon after separation from the payload) was depleted. With no spare at hand, it was decided to move the launch to the next day.

In the afternoon of August 24, the pre-launch sequence commenced again but this time all functioned perfectly, and while the last rays of the fading sun illuminated the scene at the Victor M. Power airport, the EUSO-Balloon gondola was transported to the launch pad, and attached to the two tetrahedral auxiliary balloons that would hold the payload at launch. A few minutes later the inflation of the main balloon started, and at 20:54 local time (corresponding to 00:54 on August 25 according to UTC time) it was launched. The ascent phase was completed flawlessly and soon balloon and payload were floating 40 km above Ontario.

Aerial View of the gondola floating in the lake (image copyright: Euso Balloon team) As soon as the balloon was launched, part of the scientific team of the project departed from the base onboard an helicopter equipped to perform an important task during the flight: to follow the balloon from below first firing it with an up-looking specially calibrated UV flash lamp, and later shooting several pulsed laser beams across the field of view of the instrument, to see if the light scattered out of the beam to the detector. Meanwhile in the Timmins base, the rest of the team was enjoying the images of the "first light" seen by the instrument as it was flying over Timmins.

As the night passed and the scientific objectives were acomplished, it was time for CNES to seek a good place to land the payload. During the entire trip, the balloon moved near 100 kms to the west of the launch base, to the Algoma district. After selecting an adecquate site to land the separation command was transmitted at 4:20 local time on August 25 (8:20 utc) and the payload started it's way down. Due to the different directions and speed of the wind encountered in different layers during the descent, instead of landing on the ground, EUSO came to rest in the middle of a small unnamed lake located 20 km NE of the small community of Elsas. At right can be seen an aerial view of the EUSO and service gondolas floating in the center of the lake.

Next day three members of the EUSO team along with staff of the Canadian Space Agency and guides well acquainted with the zone were deployed to the area of the landing. Once there, the instrument was extracted from the lake by the recovery helicopter and deposited in a nearby road, where it was examinated by the scientists for they relief as it was found in perfect shape and dry, even the portion of the instrument that was under the water. That same day where also recovered the balloon envelope and the operative gondola which landed in dry soil.

In all this first scientific mission was a sound success, as the performance of the instrument was as expected and the Stratos program gained invaluable experience for future flights at Timmins.

We need to mention the excellent coverage made during the previous days and flight by Etienne Parizot one of the scientists of EUSO and the students of the project throught their tumblr account.

Stay tuned, as more flight will be performed at Timmins during September.

Japan returns to stratospheric flight with BOV - 8/25/2014

Taiki, Japan.- This August will enter into the history of the recent scientific ballooning as one of the busiest in last years, with three major balloon campaigns ocurring at the same time in three points of the north hemisphere: the NASA fall campaign at Fort Sumner, New Mexico, the Strato Science 2014 campaign between France and Canada in Timmins, Ontario, and since yesterday the yearly balloon launch effort of the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) at the Taiki Aerospace Research Field in Hokkaido Island, Japan.

And certainly, the mission performed not only signaled the start of the campaign but also marked the return to fly of the Japan balloon program after a hiatus of 14 months. More on this later.

A B300 model balloon with a volume of 300.000 m3 and a diameter -fully inflated- of 90 meters was used to lift a rocket-shaped yellow-painted device denominated BOV (Balloon-based Operation Vehicle) an experiment to achieve up to 30 seconds of microgravity during free-fall, developed by JAXA.

Under these lines we can see the moment on which both, the balloon platform and the payload launcher are extracted from the hangar at Taiki to the final launch position.

View of the inflation of the B300 balloon at Taiki (image copyright: ISAS/JAXA)
The balloon was launched at 4:27 Japan Standard Time (JST) and ascended at an average speed of 300 meters per second. It Displaced eastward during 2 hours and 35 minutes, the balloon reached floating altitude of 38.6 km at a distance of 40 km from the Taiki shore. After a few minutes of leveled flight exactly at 7:12 JST a signal was transmited from ground control and the BOV was separated from the balloon starting the free-fall phase.

Exactly 5 minutes after the drop at 7:17 JST, the balloon was terminated and fell to the ocean, meanwhile BOV was descending under his parachute for a gently landing in the Pacific Ocean waters in a point located 35 kms east from Taiki coast. The recovery ship was in the area and by 9:00 JST it picked up the test vehicle and the balloon and returned them to port, and from there BOV was returned to Taiki airfield in helicopter.

Comparison of the module used in BOV-4 (left) and the current model (right) based on a microgravity module from a TEXUS rocket (image copyright: Takehiko Ishikawa) As we mentioned before, this mission nomenclated B14-01 was the first one to be conducted in Taiki since last September. As we then informed, during the launch attempt of the fourth flight of the year 2013 campaign (meant to launch the same microgravity experiment performed yesterday) at the moment of the release the balloon detached from the payload, forcing to abort the launch. The collapsed balloon landed inside the terrain of the Taiki base, over a power transmission line. An investigation was initiated to trace the origin of the failure, but as it was taking more time than expected, the launch of the experiment was delayed. In August was announced that the restriction will be maintained for larger balloons but lifted for the smaller ones, which allowed ISAS/JAXA to launch the balloon that claimed the world altitude record in September.

The BOV system flown on this last mission, performed a combustion experiment in microgravity and was modified from the previous model (BOV-4 flown in 2009) so that a much larger microgravity experiment system can be accommodated as we can see in the image at right.

The experimental module was similar to the one used in microgravity experiments onboard the TEXUS sounding rocket. Due to it's size and shape, three dimensional drag free control was not possible. Therefore, in the modified BOV the experiment section is connected to the vehicle with a linear slider so that the microgravity module section is freely moved along the vertical axis.

BOV is an evolutionary project that since it's inception contemplated differents stages of development to achieve microgravity. Recently the project was splitted in two different and independent branches: the unpowered one that we mentioned here exclusivelly devoted to microgravity studies and a larger version of the same vehicle which has the addition of wings and a propulsor called "S-Engine". This later vehicle is also dropped from an altitude of 30-40 km from a stratospheric balloon and after 40 seconds of free-fall, it pulls up and the engine operates for 30 seconds up to a speed of Mach 1.8. Thank you so much to Prof. Takehiko Ishikawa P.I. of the BOV project, that provided us with this information and pictures.

Back to the campaign at Taiki, other two experiments would be launched in these days: mission B14-02 a high altitude flight test of a exploration airplane to be used in future missions in Mars and B14-03 to evaluate the flight performance of a super-pressure balloon, with a new net-based coating.

Stay tuned !

First scientific balloon launch campaign at Timmins starting - 8/23/2014

Timmins, Ontario.- The first scientific balloon launch campaign carried out at the brand new Timmins Stratospheric Balloon Base in Ontario, Canada started succesfuly last week.

Althought in 2013 were performed there two launches, the present campaign is the first one to include scientific payloads in the flights. The effort received the name of Strato Science 2014.

During the campaign, that will be carried out between August and September by the Centre national d'études spatiales -CNES- and the Canadian Space Agency -CSA- will be launched eight balloons ranging from 100.000 m3 to 800.000 m3 of volume, which will transport in all 23 experiments, 15 from European countries and 7 from Canada. Also during the flights is expected to perform several testings and validations of new systems, procedures and materials.

The base will host along these two months more than 100 researchers from Canada and Europe plus the staff personnel from both agencies that will assist in the balloon launches and recoveries. The entire campaign will be under the direction of Stéphane Louvel from CNES who was assigned as Mission Chief.

The setup of the base to be fully operational started in late July, with the conditioning of the terrain, some general cleaning and improvementsa to the different buildings (addition of S-Band and GPS antennas, etc.). Then, in early August arrived more than 15 sea containers on which were transported from Europe the support equipment, the first scientific platforms, the gas trailers for balloon inflation and personal effects of the European staff that will spend several weeks at the base.

The operational teams arrived at Timmins on August 12, signaling the official start of the campaign. They were received by rain and also by colder temperatures than expected for this time of the year, which led to some worries about the normal development of the launch campaign.

View of the BANA gondola used in the first balloon launch of the Timmins campaign (image: CNES)Almost immediately started the process of unloading the containers, with the mandatory analysis of the impact sensors installed in each one to know if the content suffered any unusual impact during transport. This is fundamental to assess any potential damage to the delicate instruments transported. Other tasks included the installation of the work areas (assembly, preparation of experiments and flight trains), the activation of electrical and computer networks, the replacement of defective equipment and the preparation of the launch vehicle.

Other personnel was in charge of additional training of some of the staff, the supervision of the general safety of the base (including the handling of hazardous materials) and the contact with air authorities, medical care system and other support services.

As allways occurs in any balloon launch campaign carried out by CNES Balloon Division, the first mission is devoted to perform an end to end test of all the systems (both airborne and ground) to be used in the rest of the campaign. This is what they call the "Opening Flight". Despite the not so much cooperative weather the previous week, the launch date for this flight was set for early in the morning on August 21. Fortunately at the moment to take the "Go/No-Go" decision, there was no rain in the area, and the forecast was promising so at 1:45 local time was decided to go ahead with the preparations for the launch.

This first flight carried a technological gondola called BANA (which can be seen in the image left above) on which were mounted several smaller payloads and systems, including a Canadian experiment, one of the seven that will take part of the balloon missions of the campaign. The gondola was placed on the airstrip of the Victor M. Power airport, on which the base is located and attached to the auxiliary tetrahedral balloons used by the French agency to hold the payloads at launch. Later, CNES staff deployed on the ground the balloon to be used in the mission: a model 100Z with a volume of 100.000 m3. This particular balloon, manufactured by ZODIAC, used a new polyethylene resin that will undergo a on-flight qualification test in this mission.

Below these lines there is a picture of the 100Z minutes before release.

View of the inflation of the 100Z balloon at Timmins (image copyright: Euso Balloon team)

The balloon was finally launched at 5:34 local time (9.34 utc) and after performing a nominal climbing it reached succesfuly the intended float altitude. The flight developed without trouble, with only minor altitude excursions probably due to the temperatures of the air masses the balloon traversed, along a flight path that took it to the vicinity of the city of Chapleau, Ontario where it was terminated after 8 hours of flight.

Althought the previsions taken at the time of the separation of the payload, the BANA gondola landed in a terrain more wet than expected and suffered some damage as the different systems where located in compartments that were not water proof. Thus, some elements were exposed to the accumulated rainfall of the previous days. After returning to the base a more deep examination will allow the CNES technicians to know the dimension of the damage.

Despite how small this incident was, the higher than expected moisture of the terrain along with the miryad of lakes in the general flight zone, will force CNES to improve the water tightening and insulation on the upcoming experiments of the campaign, something that the agency have been studied and it was within the possibilities during the implementation of the NOSYCA system in the previous campaign in 2013.

Next mission to be launched in a few days will be EUSO-BALLOON. Stay tuned!.

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