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  • June 24 2017

    BETTII twin interferometer destroyed in free fall incident over Texas

    Palestine, Texas.- The first balloon mission of the NASA summer balloon launch campaign being carried out from the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility, located in the outskirts of the city of Palestine, Texas, ended in the worst way.

    Accordingly to an entry published a few hours after by the BETTII team on its facebook page and later by NASA on its website, at the end of the flight, the payload was separated from the balloon following the standard procedure, when due to yet unknown reasons, the instrument separated from the parachute and free fell from an altitude of 135.000 feet, in west Texas...

  • June 8 2017

    NASA summer balloon campaign from Palestine base

    Palestine, Texas.- As long as the weather cooperates, while I'm writing this lines probably would be a rush of activity at the most famous NASA balloon base, the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility, located in the outskirts of the city of Palestine, Texas.

    The activity is part of the Summer balloon launch campaign at the base, which in 2016 returned to the launch activity after a hiatus of near 9 years. This year's campaign will involve the launch of three payloads...

  • June 3 2017

    GENETRIX spy balloon program data published in StratoCat

    After a six month work and a search that endured almost 10 years, I'm publishing today in StratoCat for the first time an extensive and comprehensive bulk of information about a secret program carried out by the US Air Force and other agencies to obtain strategic reconnaisance of the Soviet Union and their allies.

    GENETRIX, was a secret program started in 1950 and executed in 1956 by the United States Strategic Air Command (SAC) and other agencies, under the cover of a meteorological and scientific effort. However, the real objective was to obtain photographic reconnaissance of the Soviet Union using high resolution cameras transported by stratospheric balloons riding the jet stream...

  • May 28 2017

    JAXA announced first balloon launch campaign for 2017

    Taiki, Hokkaido, Japan.- A few days ago in their Japanese page, the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science -founded by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in 2003- announced the realization of the first series of stratospheric balloon launches for 2017.

    The campaign will be performed at the Taiki Aerospace Research Field, the dedicated launch facility that the agency have in Hokkaido Island in northern Japan, near the town of Taiki-Cho. According to the brief press release, four missions will be carried out -as long as the weather cooperates- starting on June 5th...

  • May 19 2017

    NASA's Super Pressure Balloon has sunk in the Pacific Ocean

    In this entry I will discuss some facts around the failure of NASA's Super Pressure Balloon, launched as mission 679NT from Wanaka, New Zealand on April 24, 2017, transporting onboard an instrument known as EUSO-SPB (Extreme Universe Space Observatory) with the goal of detect ultra high energy cosmic rays.

    It's been more than a week since the loss of the balloon in the Pacific Ocean and I've expected to have by now enough elements to make a more detailed account of what happened. The reality is that the long silence from NASA that accompanied the development of the mission after launch, has extended this time. Thus, I'm being forced to make a more subjective post than I would like with the little amount of information available. Anyway, I think several interesting elements are worth of analysis....

  • May 2 2017

    Super pressure balloon launched by NASA from Wanaka

    Wanaka, New Zealand.- The third NASA's long duration mission in the southern hemisphere was succesfully started on April 24 when a team from the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility performed a flawless launch of the new superpressure balloon that the agency is being developing for scientific use. The launch was carried out from the Wanaka Airport, in Otago, New Zealand, after seven previous unsuccesful attempts.

    Althought the first 36 hrs of flight were carried out without problem, during the second night aloft, a steady decrease of altitude was evident. Taking account that the issue repeated every night, and after the launch NASA remained mostly silent about the mission, this could be an indication that the things are not going as expected...

  • 19 April 2017

    PILOT telescope mission closes CNES balloon campaign

    Alice Springs, Australia.- The third and last mission of the Austral 2017 balloon launch campaign was succesfully conducted on April 16, 2017 from the facilities of the Australian Balloon Launch Station, in Alice Springs, in Central Australia.

    The balloon carried onboard a telescope denominated PILOT (Polarized Instrument for Long wavelength Observation of the Tenuous interstellar medium). The instrument was born thanks to a collaboration between the CNES (Centre National d ’Etudes Spatiales) and IRAP-CNRS (Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planetology)...

  • April 10 2017

    Second CNES balloon launched succesfuly in Australia

    Alice Springs, Australia.- A few hours before local sunrise, on April 9, was carried out the second flight of the Austral 2017 campaign. The balloon was launched by a team of the balloon group of the French Space Agency, CNES, from the Australian Balloon Launch Station, located in Alice Springs airport, in Northern Territory.

    As occured with the first flight, the objectives were multiple: to perform solar cell calibrations in flight, to expose several experiments provided by Canadian universities and even to transport some pieces of art to the stratosphere. Unlike occured with the CLIMATE flight las week, the mission was performed during the day...

  • Updated on April 7 2017

    CLIMATE, first flight of CNES australian balloon campaign

    Alice Springs, Australia.- The first mission of the Austral2017 campaign was performed from the facilities of the Australian Balloon Launch Station, located in the Seven Mile sector of the Alice Springs airport, in Central Australia. The balloon was launched by a team of the french space agency CNES on the night of April 4.

    The balloon used was a Zodiac model 150Z measuring 150.000 m3 and the objective of the flight was to transport a multipayload gondola called CLIMATE, acronym for Combined Laser and In situ Measurements in the ATmospherE....

  • 13 March 2017

    Zero2Infinity, Bloostar and the return of the "Rockoons"

    El Arenosillo, Spain.- Zero2Infinity, a Barcelona based spanish company which aims to offer cheap access to near space and also to launch satellites at low costs using balloons, performed on March 1st, a succesful test of it's own rocket from an aerostat floating over the Atlantic Ocean.

    The balloon which was launched from a ship sailing offshore the Andalucia coast carried the "Bloostar" rocket to an altitude of 26 kilometers, where it was fired from the National Institute of Aerospace Technology's (INTA) facility in El Arenosillo, Spain...

  • 28 February 2017

    Boeing's Starliner descent system tested over White Sands

    White Sands, New Mexico.- The facilities of Spaceport America saw it's first stratospheric balloon launch, a few days ago, as part of the test phase of Boeing's Starliner CST-100 parachute system.

    During the test, a balloon lifted the flight-sized boilerplate Starliner spacecraft up to about 40,000 feet where it floated across the San Andres Mountains for a parachute landing in terrains belonging to the White Sands Missile Range (WSMR)...

  • February 23 2017

    CNES prepares a balloon launch campaign in Australia

    Alice Springs, Australia.- Almost 30 years after the last campaign performed in the island, the balloon division of the French Space Agency CNES will be returning this March to Australia to launch three stratospheric balloons in a campaign denominated "Austral 2017".

    The scientific effort will take place from the facilities of the Australian Balloon Launch Station (ABLS) located in Alice Springs, in the center of the island, with support from the University of New South Wales...

  • January 31 2017

    Balloon news in brief # 1

    A compilation of informations relative to scientific ballooning published around the world in the past few weeks.

    Take a look at what's going on in the field: upcoming projects and launch campaigns, online articles, and interesting items worth reading.

  • January 20 2017

    GRIPS instrument succesfuly recovered

    South Pole Station, Antarctica.- About 21:30 utc on January 30, 2016 a strange artifact which descended in an orange and white parachute, altered the windy and isolated landscape of the Pensacola Mountains, in Antarctica. The device resembling a giant seesaw, impacted the ice, crushing part of its structure.

    A few days after, a small recovery team reached the scene in a plane and rushed to the downed instrument to recover its precious cargo...

  • January 2 2017

    NASA's Antarctic balloon campaign comes to an end

    McMurdo Station, Antarctica.- In less than 72 hours, NASA has landed the three large balloons that since the end of November orbited the ice-cold and rugged landscapes of the Antarctic continent. Now the only thing left is the task of retrieving and bringing back to McMurdo the instruments that have landed in various parts of the continent: some at stone's throw from the base and others in places farther away.

    Unlike what happened in previous years, the tasks will be favored by the fact that the agency will have more logistical resources at its disposal thanks to the early completion of the flight phase of the campaign ...

  • December, 29 2016

    BACCUS completes it's mission after 30 days aloft

    McMurdo Station, Antarctica.- It looks like a perfectly calculated maneuver, or one of those "manual" cases that are often used to illustrate how a given process should occur, in a complete and perfect way: just a couple of hours after completing both the first month of flight and its Third anticyclonic turn on the Antarctic ice, the balloon that carried the experiment BACCUS, has finished its journey

    The remarkable fact lies in the landing site: it is located merely 50 nautic miles from the original launch base...

  • December, 18 2016

    NASA has five balloons flying around Antarctica

    McMurdo Station, Antarctica.- "Back in home for christmas". Probably that phrase alone represents the most unreachable and distant wish anyone can have while taking part of a NASA balloon launch campaign in the white continent.

    However, for the joy of the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility launch crew and their families, a mix of a unusually cooperative weather, hard work of the scientific teams and the right decisions, could make it happen ...

  • December, 6 2016

    ANITA IV mission launched from McMurdo

    McMurdo Station, Antarctica.- The second mission of the 2016/2017 NASA balloon launch campaign in the white continent, started a few days ago, with the launch of a stratospheric balloon measuring 39.000.000 cubic feet of volume, from the Williams Field airport near McMurdo station.

    Unlike last year's, the weather seems to be more cooperative and allowed to have in the air two of three payloads in such an early stage of the summer launch window....

  • November, 28 2016

    BACCUS: 1st. experiment launched in Antarctic campaign

    McMurdo Station, Antarctica.- Today, November 28 at 19:15 utc, the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility launched from the Long Duration Balloon facility at the Williams Field airport the first balloon of the Antarctic balloon launch campaign 2016/2017.

    The payload taken aloft as mission 674N was an experiment called BACCUS (Boron And Carbon Cosmic rays in the Upper Stratosphere) and according to StratoCat's database is the first balloon launched as early as November since Antarctic program inception in 1992...

  • November, 23 2016

    GRIPS recovery in Antarctica

    McMurdo Station, Antarctica Next week, two scientists of the Space Sciences Laboratory (SSL) of the University of California, Berkeley will arrive to Antarctica to perform the recovery of the remains of the experiment they launched in a balloon from McMurdo, in January 19th.

    The late date of the launch, forced to make merely a quick recovery trip to the landing site to extract the data vaults onboard the instrument. The rest of the structure, rested for almost a year in the Antarctic plateau...

  • November, 4 2016

    Balloon launch campaign starting in Antarctica

    McMurdo Station, Antarctica When November arrives, the permanent residents of the McMurdo station are prepared for the flooding that comes from Christchurch, New Zealand. Airplane after airplane, scientists of every branch of science, and from every corner of the world, come to the white continent to make their research.

    And every year, since 1990, a very special kind of them arrive. They were baptized with a sense of humor as the "balloonatics", the people that launch balloons...

  • November, 1st 2016

    Welcome to the brand new StratoCat

    After several months of hard work, I proudly present the totally renewed StratoCat. The design modification -in debt for many years- will make possible the entire site to be correctly displayed both in desktop computers and tablets, smartphones and all other devices with internet access.

    While this change was in my plans for quite, only recently I had enough time to work on it. And clearly it took me more time than originally thought. Porting the structure of the site from a static design to a responsive design involved rewriting -in many cases from scratch- hundreds and hundreds of pages, and also to recode all the scripts that I use to extract information from the primary database, and to assemble the content pages. That would be a very time-consuming task for a small group of programmers and designers, so think about of just me being the only one behind the keyboard.

    During the process, I updated much of the information from different sections of the site, some of which were not reviewed in years.

    Notably, you will see that the news which allways were the central part of the home page are gone. Unfortunately, the time needed to adapt that information to the new structure would make even more longer the preparation of the new design, so I decided to make a fresh start. However all relevant information contained on these pages, will be gradually back in other sections of StratoCat.

    The main changes are:

    • A totally new aesthetic.

    • I have added maps (see below) showing information of the upcoming launches of stratospheric balloons around the world, as well as in the launch base section, showing all the active bases for this activity.

    • A new section called "On this day" to remember those remarkable events related to scientific ballooning

    • A site map from where to access each page of StratoCat

    • A section from which you can read all flight reports containing detailed information on the instruments launched, with images and videos.

    • Almost every page of the launch base section was updated

    I sincerely hope you will enjoy the change, making your experience visiting these pages less torturous.

    I wish to thank Alan Chiu and Clio Sleator from the Space Sciences Laboratory at the University of California, who are part of the team behind the COSI spectrometer for allowing me to use in the mainpage the incredible photo they took of its "baby" during launch operations this year in Wanaka, New Zealand. I also wish to express my thanks to HTMLStream (authors of the original design on which is based StratoCat now) for all the assistance provided in recent months.

    Finally, to all my dear and anonymous readers, many thanks for the patience these months. As usual, I'm awaiting your comments, criticisms and suggestions.

Upcoming balloon launches around the world

Click on each marker to see the upcoming balloon launch campaigns around the world.