Closing for Japan's balloon launch campaign - 6/20/2007
Sanriku (Japan).- With a overcast sky background, the fourth stratospheric balloon corresponding to the spring launch campaign of the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA), was launched from the Sanriku Balloon Center, near Iwate, in the northern side of the country, on June 15th. The balloon was a B-50 model (50.000 m3 of volume) and was intented to be a technological flight.
The balloon was released at 15:05 local time and after a first climb to 13 km the telecommanded valves were operated to stop the ascent leting the balloon to be carried by the westerlies over the Pacific Ocean. As soon as the craft reached a point located 280 km east of the shoreline, ballast was released to let it reach the float altitude of 35.8 km, and from this height, travelling over the easterlies the balloon headed again to the coast. Near 23:00 that night when the craft reached the China Bay zone it was terminated. Both, balloon and payload were found by the search helicopter and recovered by a vessel the next day.
Among the experiences performed during the trip, a new PCM telemeter system and serial communication command system was tested as well a real time CCD camera for night heaven observations. These components will take part of the upcoming flight of the FITE (Far-Infrared Interferometric Telescope Experiment) at the end of the year from Brazil (more information soon).
With this launch the campaign ended. The last remaining flight with the aim of perform continuous observation of the VENUS atmosphere with a telescope was postponed to the next launch campaign in Fall.
MANHIGH or the forgotten technological feat - 6/12/2007
The global celebration for the starting of the space age next October, 50 years after the launch of the Russian "Sputnik" satellite, seems to have submerged in the forgetfulness other commemorations less known to the public but not less important for the mankind in the stellar conquest.
That's what heppenned with the totally unnoticed anniversary on past June 2th of the MANHIGH-I mission. Although a great celebration is prepared to commemorate the second of the flights of the project (more information soon) this first step of the program has been completely ignored, even by the aerospace specialized media.
For that reason from this humble place we wished to correct this, offering a detailed account of this first and exciting flight, honoring a feat of the technology of that time and the decided men that helped to pave the way to the stars for the future astronauts.
A little bit of history
Project Manhigh was a United States Air Force balloon flight program designed to investigate the human factors of space flight by taking men into the stratosphere.
Since space is considered a hostile environment, in the middle 50's the Air Force needed to know how humans could survive there and sought to discover more of the design principles for space capsules and how to study men and their reactions when in space. The collection of such data would permit intelligent planning of future space flight experiments. Dr. John P. Stapp, who was then chief of the Aeromedical Field Laboratory, Air Force Missile Development Center, and Dr. David G. Simons of the Aeromedical Field Laboratory, was appointed the Air Force Project Officer.
The first flight departed from Fleming Field airport on South St.Paul, Minnesota, on June 2th 1957. The test subject of this flight was the then Captain Joseph W. Kittinger, a young but highly experienced jet pilot assigned to the Flight Test Division of the Air Force Missile Development Center. The flight lasted near 6 hours and used the biggest balloon available at the time with a volume of 2.000.000 cubic feet. Both the balloon and capsule where built by the main contractor Winzen Research Inc.
A detailed account of the feat can be found here
Third balloon launch from Japan - 6/8/2007
Sanriku (Japan).- In the framework of the current spring campaign, on June 4th, was performed from the Sanriku Balloon Center, near Iwate, in the northern side of the country, the launch of a 100.000 m3 balloon, carrying a cryogenic device to obtain samples of stratospheric atmosphere at several levels.
The balloon was released at 6:00 local time and after a first climb to 13 km the telecommanded valves were operated to slow down the ascent speed and start the air sample collection. A little more of 4 hours after the launch the balloon finally reached the ceiling level at 34.6 km and was located 100 km east of Sanriku. At that point was activated the gas valve, starting a slow descent and continuing the sampling of the atmosphere during this phase.
Finally, the balloon was separated from the payload, and both were succesfully recovered from the sea 35 km from the shoreline of Kamaishi.
End for the spring launch campaign at Fort Sumner - 6/5/2007
Fort Sumner, (New Mexico).- Today was launched the last stratospheric balloon of the NASA's Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility from the Fort Sumner airport in New Mexico. The launch took place at 14:08 utc and the total flight time was 4 hours and 20 minutes and the payload landed 41 miles southwest of the base.
At right can be seen a video capture of the balloon shape during ascent.
As the flight was intended to be a test of a new balloon film called StratoFilm SF-450, the balloon fabric was closely watched during the entire flight through cameras mounted in the gondola.
More pictures available clicking here
The other balloon launched was intended to transport the TIGRE (Tracking and Imaging Gamma-Ray Experiment) instrument, a Compton telescope to observe high energy gamma rays developed at University of California Riverside. The flight took place on June 2th, and had a duration of 27 hours. The payload landed the next day at 1730 utc near the town of Snowflake, Arizona.
This was the first flight of the prototype instrument and was aimed to perform background verification and initial polarized observations of the Crab Nebula pulsar. We are waiting more information on the flight from the PI of the mission Dr. Allen Zych. Meanwhile you can visit the TIGRE web site at http://tigre.ucr.edu/.