Failure of a Japanese superpressure balloon during test flight - 8/31/2010
Taiki, Hokkaido.- A probe model of the future long duration superpressure balloon being developed by the Japanese Space Agency (Jaxa) that was launched on August 27 from the Multipurpose Air Park in Taiki, Hokkaido Island, failed to maintain the internal pressure at flight.
The test involved the utilization of a "pumpkin shape" balloon measuring 5000 m3 of volume. It was launched at 5:41 Japan Standard Time and ascending at a mean velocity of 250 meters per minute it reached float altitude of 25.2 km 105 minutes after released. At that point the balloon was located about 90 km east-north-east of the launch base and started to pressurize , but at 7:25 when the internal pressure achieved the 64 Pa level, the film tore at the lower part of the balloon developing a leak that forced to terminate the flight.
Despite the failure, JAXA obtained valuable data of the rupture mechanism to study the reasons why the internal pressure was not maintained and even the balloon failed at a lower pressure than expected. For this purpose the images obtained from an up-looking camera located in the gondola will be a key factor to overcome the problem in future tests.
Concordiasi Antarctic campaign has started - 8/29/2010
McMurdo, Antarctica.- The teams from the balloon division of the French Space Agency (CNES) and the Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique (LMD) part of the l'Institut Pierre Simon Laplace, arrived to the McMurdo station on August 13 in a USAF cargo plane that departed from Christchurch, New Zealand. Their objective is to launch 18 superpressure balloons during September and October, in the context of the CONCORDIASI project, aimed to explore and measure the Antarctic atmosphere.
This will the third time that a French balloon launch team will operate in the white continent. The first one occured under the CITADEL campaign from the Dumont D'urville Station in 1973, and the more recent effort took place in 2005 when several superpressure balloons were launched under the framework of the VORCORE campaign, from the Williams Field airport. Instead returning there, for CONCORDIASI, the main integration facility was established in one of the buildings that form the Albert P. Crary Science and Engineering Center, located in the heart at McMurdo Station. The launch pad will be located close to the laboratory.
Once in McMurdo, the team received the mandatory ice clothing and basic survival training, and after meeting with their main cargo (delivered to McMurdo by ship) started to setup their operations site and commenced with the calibration of the scientific instruments to be launched.
In declarations to the press Didier Renaut, in charge of weather and climate programmes at CNES explained that the balloons, drifting at an altitude of 20 km, will perform several tasks: "...We're looking to improve weather forecasting and to better describe climate in this part of the globe. We're also seeking to use the IASI infrared sounding instrument on the MetOp-A satellite more effectively..."
Obtaining accurate measurements with the infrared spectrometer proves more difficult over Antarctica than anywhere else due to the cold temperatures and the clouds, which attenuate the signal. For this reason, the survey campaign will begin by releasing 600 dropsondes from 12 balloons each carrying a "Driftsonde" gondola , over a period of almost two months to acquire vertical profiles of the troposphere up to altitudes of 10-15 km. Some of the dropsonde releases will be timed to coincide with passes of MetOp-A to help in the validation of IASI's measurements directly.
In a second phase of the programme, the balloons will collect data on temperature, pressure, ozone and aerosols using sensors on their flight trains. These data will help scientists to better understand the dynamic, chemical and microphysical mechanisms underlying the formation of the ozone hole and its big variations from one year to the next in this region of the world. The balloons are expected to stay aloft 45 days average, but some could fly for up to 5 months.
The campaign will count with the participation of CNES, responsible for flight control and data reception at its space centre in Toulouse, while Meteo France will control the dropsonde measurements with the collaboration of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in the United States, where ten members of CNES's balloon team will be on hand to accomplish the mission.
The ongoings of the campaign can be followed throught a detailed weblog updated almost daily by members of the team on the ice.
First launch of the year at Taiki - 8/23/2010
Taiki, Hokkaido.- As you may remember in one of our last "tweets", we mentioned that all the missions planned to be carried out during the first balloon launch campaign of the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) in last May were delayed until the second half of the year due to adverse weather.
Well, in early August the second launch window opened at the Aerospace Research Field located in the Multipurpose Air Park in Taiki, Hokkaido Island. At right we can see the image of the first balloon launched there, which measuring 100.000 m3 was sent to the stratosphere on the morning of August 22.
The objective of the mission was to obtain air samples using a cryogenic sampler developed by Tokohu University, that was flown from Japan, Antarctica and Sweden many times in the past. The launch -using the unique "sliding platform" method developed by JAXA- was acomplished at 12:05 Japan standard time and two hours later, after a initial ascent phase the balloon reached float altitude of 34.5 km when was flying over open Ocean 75 km east of Hokkaido shore. After the mission was terminated, the payload hit water under his parachute in a point located 25 km E-SE of the Port of Tokachi, where it was recovered by a vessel.
The air samples were taken both in the ascent and in the controlled descent from 12 different altitudes.
The rest of the campaign -which would endure until middle September- will be devoted to perform a test of a new superpressure balloon, to make ozone and gravity waves measurements and the most important mission of the campaign to launch an improved version of the BOV (Balloon-based Operation Vehicle) used to obtain artificial microgravity for scientific purposes. Alike the previous flights, the upcoming BOV mission would count with the addition of an air-breathing engine called "S-Engine", essential to compensate rapidly increasing air-drag extending the microgravity phase up to 60 seconds of duration.
Stay tuned !
NASA fall balloon campaign at Fort Sumner cancelled - 8/11/2010
Fort Sumner, New Mexico.- The Mishap Investigation Board in charge of the investigation of the accident that occurred during the launch of the Nuclear Compton Telescope in Australia in last April, announced this week to the representatives of the NASA Balloon Program Office in Wallops Island, that their final report would take four or five additional weeks to see the light. The direct consequence of the delay is that the flight prohibition currently established over the program remains and will not allow the realization of the Fall campaign at Fort Sumner airport planned to commence in middle August. The only activity to be carried out there will be some basic maintenance and the integration of one payload called "High Wind" developed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research that will flight from Sweden to Canada in 2011.
One of the teams already present since early August at the site was Louisiana's State University HASP project. In a very brief message in their website they informed that "...the September launch of HASP 2010 has been put on hold because of a NASA internal review. New details for HASP 2010 will be posted as soon as we get them...". Unofficially we learned that the flight was delayed to the next year.
The only information that we managed to obtain is the fact that apparently the problem that originated the launch mishap in Australia was related to the device that is mounted in the tip of the crane arm or launch vehicle, which performs the clean separation of the payload from it. Apparently, CSBF had made a deep study on it and will came out with a totally new and improved design "fail-proof". The first units of that new "launch head" are being constructed right now.
Also the consequences of the mishap are being suffered by experimenters that would flight under sponsorship of other agencies as is the case of the light-weight Polarized Gamma-ray Observer (PoGOLite) an experiment designed to measure the polarization of soft gamma rays in the 25 keV-80 keV energy range developed mainly by the Particle and Astroparticle Physics Group of the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden. The instrument was meant to be launched by the Swedish Space Agency from the base of ESRANGE in a typical "turnaround" flight nearing 24-48 hours, but although the payload is predominantly Swedish-built, some CSBF items were to be used (e.g. flight train and parachute), and these items are now "quarantined" until the publication of the report.
Stay tuned for more information as we get it.