The fall campaign of balloon launches from New Mexico already started - 8/29/2006
Fort Sumner, (New Mexico).- As every year, a little before the fall the NASA's balloon program carry out the second big launch campaign from the facility located at the Fort Sumner municipal airport, in the state of New Mexico.
The first balloon of this campaign -a technological flight- was launched on August 26th devoted to test a new balloon film prepared from the same resin of the others balloons through a new extrusion process. The flight concluded succesfully 50 kms east of Albuquerque.
Probably at the end of the campaign after all the scientific flights were done, another test flight will be performed
As allways, if you wanna see the campaign live over the net, that can be done through a web cam mounted inside de high bay building at Fort Sumner or through another webcam mounted in the roof of the building, allowing to see the launch field.
The O3 SCOUT campaign, continues - 8/24/2006
Overcoming several communication problems -also difficulting to obtain up to date information on the launch operations- still continues the balloon launches being carried on from the military sector of the Niamey airport in Niger. The latest launches were done on August 10th and 17th. The first one included as payload two versions of the SAOZ instrument (Standard and Bro), the chromatograph Micro-DIRAC, and the radiómeter NILU-CUBE wich ascended upto 29 kms, remained 40 minutes at float and landed after the sunset. All the instrument were recovered.
The previous launches took place on July 31th, August 5th and August 7th. The payload of the first flight -from the University of Wyoming to measure aerosols- descended near Burkina Faso. The second balloon included as payload three instrumnents: micro-SDLA (CNRS-INSU), micro-DIRAC (Cambridge) and a back-scatter sonde called LABS. The last one was devoted to explore in situ anvils and cirrus clouds formations.
This campaign called O3 SCOUT it's being carried on to study the dynamical, microphysical and chemical processes in the Tropical Tropopause Layer (TTL) and the transport of tropospheric air -including low water vapour and very short lived chemical species- into the stratosphere.The effort, funded by the European Union, uses as launch base the military sector of the Niamey airport, outside the capital city of Niger. It is planned to launch 10 small balloons, with payloads weighting up to 80 kg until the end of August.
The initiative, as well as the previous campaign just finished from Benin, is carried in the framework of AMMA: an international project to improve the knowledge and understanding of the so called West African monsoon (WAM) and its variability with an emphasis on daily-to-interannual timescales. The effort is motivated by an interest in fundamental scientific issues and by the societal need for improved prediction of the WAM and its impacts on West African nations.
More information on the Niamey operations can be obtained in http://www.ozone-sec.ch.cam.ac.uk/scout_o3/field_campaigns/small_balloon/index.htm
James Van Allen dies - 8/9/2006
IOWA CITY, (USA) Physicist James A. Van Allen, a leader in space exploration who discovered the radiation belts surrounding the Earth that now bear his name, died Wednesday. He was 91. The University of Iowa, where he taught for years, announced the death in a statement on its Web site.
In a career that stretched over more than a half-century, Van Allen designed scientific instruments for dozens of research flights, first with small rockets and balloons, and eventually with space probes that traveled to distant planets and beyond. Van Allen gained global attention in the late 1950s when instruments he designed and placed aboard the first U.S. satellite, Explorer I, discovered the bands of intense radiation that surround the earth, now known as the Van Allen Belts.
The scientist was behind the idea -among others- of use balloons to put rockets in the stratosphere and fired them from there. This combination called rockoon (derived from the terms rocket and balloon) allowed the rocket to achieve further distance. The rockoon was a solid fuel rocket that, rather than being immediately lit while on the ground, was first carried into the upper atmosphere by a gas-filled balloon, and then separated from the balloon when it had reached its maximum height and automatically ignited. This would allow the rocket to achieve a higher altitude, since the rocket did not have to move through thick air layers.
During the early 50's several rockoons launch were acomplished from small Coast Guard Vessels near the north pole like the Eastwind, or the Staten Island.
The folksy, pipe-smoking scientist, called "Van" by friends, retired from full-time teaching in 1985. But he continued to write, oversee research, counsel students and monitor data gathered by satellites. He worked in a large, cluttered corner office on the seventh floor of the physics and astronomy building that bears his name.
"Jim Van Allen was a good friend of our family. His loss saddens Christie and me," said the Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack. "His passing is a sad day for science in America and the world".
Launch window opening for USV - 7/8/2006
Trapani, Sicily.- With a slight delay from the original date, on August 8th will be open the launch window for the drop test of a model of the future italian space plane.
As published in the italian specialized magazine "Dedalo News" the window will remain open 20 days, but it's really hard to guess a certain launch date due to big restrictions impossed by the italian air authorithy (Ente Nazionale di Assistenza al Volo - ENAV). In this time of year Sicily's air corridors are very busy and the ENAV fears that the flight test would interfere with the air traffic in that zone, so the launch would be acomplished when that impact in the traffic flow can be well managed.
As you may remember from our past updates, the Italian Space Agency (ASI) had activated again the Luigi Broglio stratospheric balloon launch base, in the west side of Sicily, preparing the launch of a big balloon (with a volume near 350.000 m3) carrying a scale model of a space plane, wich will be transported off the coast and droped over the sea in free fall.
For more information on the prototype to be tested, visit the CIRA's web site at http://usv.cira.it/.