Weekly Balloon News #8 - December 8th. 2022
Recent balloon launches and landings
Update on World View balloon flight on Dec 2nd, 2022
A few hours after publishing the current edition of this bulletin, World View contacted me via Twitter about what I've published earlier on the development and ending of their last balloon mission launched from Spaceport Tucson a week ago.
On the right you can see the message published by the company clarifying what happened.
After reading the message, I proceeded to further analyze the data obtained from the ADS-B system. After doing some detailed calculations on the payload drop rate per second, I have to admit that I came to a conclusion that was wrong. After making a detailed comparison of every time frame of the data, the terminal impact velocity at landing was pretty standard. I've compiled the data in a PDF file available here.
To this I must add the wording of the text that did not make it very clear that I was theorizing about "what could have happened" but rather affirming "what had actually happened".
Hope this helps to put things in their proper place. Long live to the data.
Part of the conclusions expressed in the following paragraphs are wrong and have been properly rectified above. Wrong data is crossed out.
Just hours after the closing of the previous issue of this newsletter, World View launched a stratospheric balloon from Spaceport Tucson.
The balloon was sent aloft at 15:43 utc on December 2nd, 2022. After a nominal ascent in strong winds (60 knots average) the balloon reached float altitude about 100,000 ft at 17:14 utc but merely a minute later the altitude readings in the ADS-B tracking network showed that the balloon started to lose altitude at an average of 100 feet per second.
Such a descent rate was indicative of a possible balloon burst. Although at first I thought that it was possible that the payload was undergoing a free fall, the reality is that the speed was very low: in other documented cases throughout the history of scientific balloons, the average time for a load to impact against Earth from the stratosphere in free fall is between 2 and 4 minutes. In this case, the payload/balloon reached ground at 100 feet per second 26 minutes later. The landing site was located in an isolated point 12 km E of Virden, New Mexico. Total flight time was one hour and 57 minutes.
Although the speed was very low for a free fall, it was abnormally high for a standard descent. This suggests two possible scenarios: the payload could not be separated from the collapsed balloon and it became entangled in the flight gear causing the rapid fall, or the descent of the payload took place with a semi-collapsed parachute without the necessary drag to lessen the fall. In either case, it is highly probable that the gondola suffered severe damage upon impact with the ground.
At this time no information is available about the status of the mission or payload damage. In the days following the incident, I have consulted with both World View and local authorities, but have received no response. Also, nothing has come out about the event in the media in either New Mexico or Arizona
In the early hours of the morning of December 7, 2022, hundreds or thousands of inhabitants of the populous city of Hyderabad, in the Indian state of Telangana, were shocked by the strange presence of a luminous object that was clearly silhouetted against the semi-cloudy sky of the city.
Images of the strange visitor began to appear on social media, triggering all sorts of rumors about aliens and UFOs. However, the explanation was much more "mundane" since shortly before dawn that same day a stratospheric balloon had been launched from the National Balloon Facility on the outskirts of the city.
Despite the fact that the explanation that soon reached the media served to quell the rumors, the commotion was just beginning.
Almost simultaneously, the inhabitants of the Vikarabad district some 70 kilometers to the southwest, also reported the presence of the balloon, with similar reactions. Although some media already warned of its true origin, some perhaps somewhat sensationalist chronicles spoke openly of "panic" when trying to describe people's reaction. However, the biggest surprise would be taken by the residents of a small village called Mogaligidda who, shortly before noon, witnessed the descent by parachute and the subsequent landing in a field on the outskirts, of a strange capsule as we can see in the images at right.
The fully enclosed capsule landed upside down still attached to the parachute that landed in an adjacent pasture along with a couple of white boxes attached. The scene was soon filled with onlookers who began filming with their cell phones and uploading the videos to different social networks, increasing the commotion. To many of those who commented on the videos, the artifact reminded by its shape of the time machine that appeared in the movie "Adytia 369" a very popular Indian science fiction film from the early 1990s.
Less than half an hour later, staff from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, the entity that operates and manages the National Balloon Facility, arrived at the landing site. First they proceeded to turn the capsule over and after opening a small hatch on one of its sides they began to disassemble it.
After completely separating one of its sides, they proceeded to extract from its interior a series of instruments that were located in a rack in the central part of the room. Later in the afternoon, some news reporters appeared on site and interviewed the personnel in charge of the recovery, who explained the origin and purpose of the artifact: the capsule belonged to HALO Space, a Spanish firm that plans to offer tourist flights into near space in a balloon starting in 2024. It had been launched from Hyderabad at 5:30 in the morning of that day as part of a test flight as reported in number 2 of this bulletin in October.
More details of the flight including a video of the launch and additional images, are available here.
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've updated flight reports for several balloon missions carried out in the framework of the Flight Opportunities program from NASA. The initiative, funded by NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) aims to facilitate rapid demonstration of promising technologies for space exploration and the expansion of commercial space applications through suborbital testing with industry flight providers. Three platforms are available: rocket-powered suborbital vehicles, parabolic aircraft, and of course high-altitude balloons. In this last category, the initiative counts with five flight providers: Angstrom Designs, Aerostar, Stratodynamics, World View and Near Space Corporation.
In this update I've completed the series of flights performed by Near Space Corporation, from their launch sites of Tillamook and Madras (both in Oregon) in 2013 and 2014.
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 9-Dec-2022 )
|Launched from||In flight since||Payload or experiment||Last known status|
| NO BALLOONS IN FLIGHT AT THE MOMENT |
Last completed balloon flights (updated 9-Dec-2022 )