DUSTER mission succesfully ended - 6/29/2008
Longyearbyen, Svalbard.- The first mission of the Long Duration Balloon flight campaign from Svalbard for this year had just ended succesfully. The balloon carrying an experiment called DUSTER was launched on 21 June, and crossed the Arctic Ocean in a west ward path during four days. After reaching Greenland and approaching the west coast of the giant island the flight was terminated. The payload and the balloon were both succesfully recovered and transported to the Thule Air Base before being shipped back to Svalbard and then transported to Italy to analyze the samples collected. This was the first time that such kind of mission was tried.
As you may remember from past updates, the objective of the DUSTER balloon payload is to investigate the aerosol content in the stratosphere, looking for microscopic dust particles. According to the project's principal investigator, Prof. Pasquale Palombo, "...We are looking for dust particles in the atmosphere, dust coming from pollution, vulcanoes, interplanetary space and so on. Then weŽll be able to find the chemical composition of the stratosphere and how the particles affect global climate...". This DUSTER flight was the first scientific mission after a test held as a "piggyback" payload under a CNES balloon, launched from Esrange in January 2006. The project is a international collaboration involving University of Parthenope (Italy), Astronomical Observatory of Capodimonte (Italy), CNRS (France), University of New Mexico (USA) and University of New York (USA).
In the next weeks several others balloon missions will be launched from the same place. Probably this will be the last campaign there before the formal inauguration of the Nobile / Amundsen station that is being built and hopefully may be operative for the next summer.
More information available at: http://www.rocketrange.no/
End of the SCOUT 03 launch campaign - 6/27/2008
Timón, Brazil.- After near a month of activity, the campaign carried out by the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (INPE) along with their French counterparts of the CNES balloon division from the base mounted at Domingos Rego Airport in the city of Timón, finally ended.
The last flight was performed on June 27th, when the only experiment remaining from the entire campaign was put in the tropical stratosphere by a 402Z balloon, made by Zodiac. The instrument onboard was LPMA-DOAS (Limb Profile Monitor of the Atmosphere / Differential Optical Absorption Spectroscopy) consisting in a high spectral resolution Fourier transform spectrometer operating in absorption against the sun. The objective is to record limb atmospheric spectra in selected intervals from the thermal infrared to the near-infrared. The launch took place at 2:22 local time and after a trip near 16 hours at a height of 37.4 km the payload landed safelly near Capinzal do Norte, in the Maranhao State.
This closed the brazilian chapter of the SCOUT O3 effort which involved a total of seven balloon-borne experiments all focused in the study of the relationship between chemistry and climate in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere as well the exchanges between both layers. Among the objectives are the study of the ozone layer, the forecasting of climatic changes and the validation of data obtained by instruments located in ESA's METOP and ENVISAT satellites.
In brief these were the other six balloon launched. The first flight took place on May 30th to launch the OPC (Optical Particle Counter) which was recovered near the city of Altos, in the Piauí state, meanwhile the second one was launched two days after carrying a multi-instrumented atmospheric payload known as TRIPLE. This last payload was recovered after a six hour flight near Vargem, in the same state.
The third balloon carried a payload called MIPAS-B, in his second trip in the brazilian tropic and was succesfully recovered near Caracol in the Maranhao State. The fourth one was transporting the SPIRALE (Spectroscopie Infra-Rouge par Absorption de Laser Embarqué) instrument and was launched on June 9. The fifth balloon of the campaign was launched on June 13 at 3:17 local time, with the LPMA-IASI (Infrared Atmospheric Sounding Interferometer) instrument on board. The flight lasted near 8 hours and landed near the city of Caxias in the Maranhao State. Finally, on June 19, was launched the sixth balloon carrying a French experiment called SALOMON (Spectroscopie d'Absorption Lunaire pour l'Observation des Minoritaires Ozone et Nox) which was recovered in good shape near the launch base.
This was the second succesfull massive launch campaign performed from the Timón base.
Succesfull flight test of the new ULDB balloon design - 6/23/2008
Fort Sumner, New Mexico.- Relief and Joy. These two words would synthesize -we guess- the mood of the ULDB (Ultra Long Duration Balloon) team after the succesfull mission. The flight test of the scaled down model of the NASA's future long duration craft was a complete success from launch to landing, assuring a continuity of the program that had suffered several setbacks in the last years. After a pair of indoor inflation test that allowed -after a deep redesign of the balloon gore shape- to avoid the deployment issues of the older models, this was a crucial step to see if finally the failure was to be overcome.
The mission started with the inflation process helped by a tow balloon on top of the main to allow a correct and undamaged deploy of the ULDB reinforced fabric during the process. After a few minutes, when sufficient helium entered inside the main balloon, the auxiliary was released and inflation resumed. In perfect weather conditions the launch took place at 13:18 UTC.
The payload consisted only in a MIP module, uplooking cameras and ballast which after being depleted forced the balloon to achieve superpressure deploying without troubles the balloon fabric as can be seen in the captured image coming from the live feed on the flight.
Once pressurized, the balloon maintained the flight level of 102.500 feet until 16:24 UTC when it was terminated. Tha payload landed in good condition 13,5 nautic miles NE of Capitan, in New Mexico.
After this true confidence shock, the next step for the ULDB program will be twice a step: a scaled up version balloon of near 7 million cubic feet, will be tested during the next fall campaign in Fort Sumner and a twin model will do the same during the Antarctic campaign in the next austral summer. Both of them will carry the same payload as the 586NT flight.
With this mission is now officially closed the spring launch campaign from Fort Sumner. As usual thank you so much to our friend Tom Steiner by the data and images provided to us.
Big NASA balloon seen over New Mexico and Arizona - 6/2/2008
Fort Sumner, New Mexico.- The white dot of light hanging in the sky over several cities on New Mexico and Arizona this weekend, was a big NASA polyethylene balloon, launched from the Airport of Fort Sumner in the eastern side of New Mexico. There, the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility -in charge of agency's balloon program- is carrying out his yearly spring launch campaign.
Several Ham's involved in amateur balloon projects followed the path of the balloon and managed to obtain excellent pictures of it as these took by Bob Thompson from Prescott (AZ) who obtained them using a 1250 mm, f/13.8 Meade ETX-90 telescope. The impressive pictures show the balloon at float and the termination phase, including the collapsed gas bag (Click to enlarge)
The balloon, which prompted as usual in clear days a bunch of UFO reports (see ABQ Journal, KOB TV or Duke City Fix) was launched on May 31th, at 14:50 UTC, and after a initial ascent phase, it reached two hours after a float altitude near 118.000 feet starting a westward flight path crossing part of New Mexico and entering in Arizona. After 30 hours of flight the balloon was separated of his payload in a point located 14 nautic miles NW of Winslow.
According to NASA official word this flight (numbered as 585NT) was a flight qualification test of the new A34.43-3 balloon design. It was carrying out a technological gondola nicknamed "Thunderbird" developed to transport a big ballast container and uplooking cameras, and other flight instruments to follow closely from the ground the balloon behaviour. The total suspended weight was near 8000 pounds. As a piggyback instrument also was included in the gondola the so called "BalloonSat" flown on behalf New Mexico State University in charge of the development of the project under a US Air Force program.
It consisted of a set of photomultiplier detectors to measure the earth's background radiation and was intended to characterize that background for further cosmic ray studies as well to serve as a test of the engineering concepts for a university nanosatellite payload in a near-space environment.
Thank you so much as usual to Tom Steiner and Bob Thompson by the information kindly provided.