First japanese balloon launched from Taiki - 8/31/2008
Taiki, Japan.- A halt nearly of a year in the scientific ballooning activities in Japan ended last August 23th when was succesfully launched the first balloon from the new base of the Space Japanese Agency (JAXA) established in the "Multipurpose Aviation Park" of Taiki, Hokkaido, in the north part of the country.
Under a overcast sky, the ballon with a volume of 100.000 m3 was partially inflated inside the giant hexagonal airship hangar, and after the right conditions where met, transported outside the building.
The release was acomplished at 6:02 AM local time, and after a nominal ascent phase lasting one hour and 55 minutes, it reached the ceiling altitude of 33.5 km in a point located in open sea east of Hiroo, about 60 km off the coast.
After that, the balloon slowly started a west ward path back to the coast until 12:10 local time when was terminated in a place about 30 km northeast of the shore line being recovered from the sea by a vessel.
The objective of the flight (nomenclated as B08-01 by the Agency) was mainly technological, since the new base is still in the testing phase to enter probably in operational regime the next year replacing the now deactivated Sanriku Balloon Center.
This was the first succesful balloon release since the formal inauguration of the complex held in May of this year. An earlier launch attempt had ended in failure and all operations where halted until investigation of the reasons of the failure.
During the rest of the launch window (August 20th through September 19th) other five flights will be made. Three of them with similar purposes and the other two to test a solar sail deployment dynamics and to observe the behaviour in flight of a inflatable space structure.
Aborted launch of the ULDB balloon at Fort Sumner - 8/21/2008
Fort Sumner, New Mexico.- The next step in the scaled-up test phase of the ULDB (Ultra Long Duration Balloon) was aborted at launch time. The balloon would to be launched on August 19, but just after being released from the holding spool, showed an anomalous volume. Assuming a lost of helium during the inflation and aware of the fact that the balloon probably will not reach a safe flight attitude it was decided to terminate it at once.
The deflated balloon landed inside the limits of the launch base at the Municipal Airport of Fort Sumner, so was recovered immediately. As the payload was not released by "Big Bill" (the Mobile Launch Vehicle) technically there is no flight. Instead of being catalogued as "Flight Failure" the incident is referred as a "Ground Abort" of very rare occurence in NASA's balloon program history.
After examination of the balloon as well all the hardware involved in the operation, maybe the agency will know what failed. The aborted mission was intended to be a test of a larger version (6 million cubic feet of volume) of the new ULDB design succesfully flown on past June as flight 586NT. We will must wait for a official word on the subject.