First balloon launched by CNES from ESRANGE - 2/17/2011
Kiruna, Sweden.- The balloon division of the French Space Agency CNES succeeded to perform the first launch for the 2011 campaign at the Esrange Space Center. The balloon fabricated by Zodiac and measuring 12.000 m3 of volume, was released at 16:00 utc on Febraury 15. After a total flight time of near 7 hours at an altitude of 20 km was terminated over the Northeast of Finland, close to the Russian border, from where it was recovered by helicopter.
The image of the inflation operation above, was taken from a nearby hill, by a member of SQUID a student team taking part of the Rexus rocket launch campaign at ESRANGE.
The mission served as opening flight for technical testing of flight hardware and systems to be used in the rest of the campaign, but also transported an instrument denominated SP2 (Stratéole Phase 2) to qualify a new frost-point hygrometer developed by the Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique from france, which uses a surface acoustic wave sensor. It was designed to work on long duration superpressure balloon flights to be launched in a future campaign to be performed in Equator.
According to the launch agenda a second mission of this same instrument will be carried out along with the ELHYSA frost point hygrometer, in the next days.
More to come !. The campaign is just starting.
European balloon campaign starting at ESRANGE - 2/14/2011
Kiruna, Sweden.- Near 80 technicians and scientists from several european countries started to arrive in early Febraury to the Esrange Space Center, to take part of the upcoming launch campaign of stratospheric balloons. The launch operations will be under the management of the balloon division of the French Space Agency CNES.
Although the entire campaign will include also technological flights, and testing of new launch techniques, the main scientific effort is related to an initiative called ENRICHED (European collaboratioN for Research of stratospherIc CHEmistry and Dynamics). As indicated by the acronym, its aim is to enrich the existing dataset in the Arctic region in order to follow the evolution and potential modifications of the coupled chemical-dynamical system in climate change context. For this effort, four balloon flights are planned; two early flights in vortex conditions and two late flights in springtime to cover the vortex to springtime changes. On each flight phase will be launched one gondola with instrumentation for in situ measurements and one gondola for remote sensing. More information on ENRICHED is available at the website of the Laboratoire de Physique et Chimie de l'Environnement et de l'Espace.
ENRICHED will be complementary to the aircraft RECONCILE effort that took place in winter 2010 and STRAPOLETE balloon campaign carried out also in Kiruna in 2009. The dataset obtained will be useful for the long-term validation of sensing instruments onboard ESA's ENVISAT satellite.
In out last update we were wrong when pointed the bad weather as the reason of the cancellation of the first flight attempt on Febraury 8. According to first hand sources on the field, it was cancelled due to a technical problem. After that the flight was reprogramated for Febraury 13, but it was cancelled too on that date, this time due to a hole developed in the balloon. This first mission, known as the "Opening Flight" serves to validate the technique to be used during the rest of the campaign.
Stay tuned for more news on this!
End for the NASA balloon campaign in Antarctica - 2/6/2011
McMurdo Station, Antarctica.- With the termination of the last balloon still in flight and the recovery of the main parts of the other two instruments flown, NASA ended last week the 2010/2011 stratospheric balloon launch campaign being developed since last November from the Williams Field Airport near McMurdo Station.
The super pressure balloon of the ULDB (Ultra Long Duration Balloon) project launched on January 9 was terminated at 00:52 utc on Febraury 1st. The landing occured at 1:38 utc in a point located 483 nautic miles NNW of McMurdo Station. Once in the ground the parachute was separated of the gondola by remote command sent via satellite by the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility (CSBF) control center in Palestine, Texas to prevent the wind would drag the gondola over the antarctic plateau. Although a longer flight for the balloon was expected apparently the decision to bring it down was not related to any kind of failure but to an easy recovery of the payload remains. The only notably issue during the flight was a slightly loss of altitude in the last days of the flight due to unknown reasons. A few days later a CSBF recovery mission was sent to the impact site using a Basler aircraft. During the trip, all of the CSBF gondola, electronics, and flight train components were returned to McMurdo and also were obtained several samples of the SPB balloon envelope for further analysis.
On January 30, after a trip with several stops for refueling and waiting for suitable weather the Basler aircraft managed to land in the CREAM impact zone. As you may remember from our previous entries, the balloon which transported that instrument suffered on December 26, shortly after completing the first half of the first turn to the pole an uncommanded termination: the payload was suddenly separated of the balloon and descended under his parachute in a point located 300 miles from the Halley Research Station, which is operated by the British Antarctic Survey. The recovery party spended near six hours on the ground recovering a great amount of the experiment and a few days later they returned it to McMurdo via the south pole.
On regard BLAST -terminated on January 5- althought it was located in terms of Antarctic distances "close" to the base (the payload landed 300 miles SSE of McMurdo) the weather was not much cooperative during great part of January, forcing to cancel the recovery effort over and over. It was finally completed in the first days of Febraury. By the way, the instrument suffered only cosmetic damage.
By now, only rest to wait for the results of the investigation on the CREAM termination incident, and try to obtain more information on the health of the instrument which must flight again on the next campaign. Stay tuned !