Succesful flight of the new 34H NASA balloon - 9/30/2008
Ft. Sumner, New Mexico.-After near 10 aborted attempts in the last two weeks, finally on September 27 was launched the last NASA balloon for this year's fall campaign, which was carried out during the last month from the Scientific Balloon Flight Facility located at the Fort Sumner Municipal Airport in New Mexico.
At right can be seen the balloon during the inflation process.
A initial attempt early that day was suspended a few minutes after the sunrise, but near noon the webcameras located at the roof of the High Bay building in the base showed that the launch place was slightly changed -using the so called "E" launch pad located in the East sector of the airport. Soon the small bubble of the balloon being inflated appeared in the image so it was clear that this try will be the good one.
After 40 minutes, the balloon was fully inflated, and at 15:30 UTC under a clear sky it was released from the spool. The mission was intended to be a test of a new balloon type made by Aerostar, and nicknamed 34H (H stands for "Heavy"). After a nominal ascent phase the balloon achieved a float altitude of 118.000 feet, which was the average altitude during the entire flight. Soon the balloon started a flight path due East entering in Texas.
At the half portion of the flight near the sunset, all that we were following the flight trought internet had a truly amazing sight while the balloon was fading into the progresivelly darker sky until disappear. A tiny piece of video of that moment can be seen clickin in the image at left.
The flight lasted near 30 hours with little displacement of the balloon. Finally Sunday night marked the end of the trip when the balloon was separated from the payload several miles Northeast from Hamlin, Texas. As occur each time when this long flights take place in clear skies days, the balloon sighted triggered several UFO reports from Lubbock, Texas.
Thus was closed a very brief campaign which only three flights done, including the frustrated ULDB test launch. Currently NASA is near completing the shipment of all the hardware -including the payloads- for the 2008/2009 Antarctic campaign which this year will launch three balloons carrying the Anita (neutrinos) and Cream (cosmic rays) payloads as well another attempt to flight test the ULDB new design. The first to be launched from the white continent.
Longest HASP flight ever: 30 hours at float - 9/18/2008
Ft. Sumner, New Mexico.-After the delays suffered by Hurricane "Gustav" which forced two scientists of the project to stay at their homes in the Baton Rouge area longer than anticipated and a scrubbed launch on Saturday September 13th, finally on September 15th was launched the third and so far the longest flight of the High Altitude Student Platform (HASP) a project carried out by Louisiana Space Consortium with close cooperation of NASA's Columbia Scientific Baloon Facility which provides the vehicle on which the student's platform reaches the near space region.
The release of the balloon occured at 13:30 utc, from the launch pad of the balloon base established at the Municipal Airport of Fort Sumner in New Mexico.
At right we can see a image of the launch operation.
The balloon acquired a rather weird flight pattern tipical of the "turn-around" period which is caracterized by a great instability and fluctuation of the high altitude currents. During the flight, the web camera developed by Rocket Science, Inc. called CosmoCam provided sharp images of all the elements onboard the gondola and the balloon itself. After a cold night at altitude and with the batteries almost emptied, CosmoCam ceased to transmit early in the morning of the next day.
Althought initially was considered the posibility of finishing the flight earlier (due to the fact that the balloon was aproaching zones of risky landing) its termination was delayed until 23:30 utc on September 16th. The final landing spot of the payload was a point between Carlsbad and El Paso in Texas. During the day several residents from Roswell as well from the El Paso city sighted the glowing balloon generating some UFO reports into the media.
The HASP gondola consists of a multi-instrumented platform designed to carry up to twelve payloads designed and built by students which are used from flight-test compact satellites or prototypes to fly small experiments.
The state of Louisiana and the Louisiana Space Consortium have funded the construction and operation of HASP and the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility (CSBF) through the NASA Balloon Program Office has committed to flying HASP once a year for three years. This was meant to be the last HASP flight but this week the agency announced that will support the projects other three years.
This flight included experiments to test solar cells, a prototype of a stellar tracker, a gamma ray burst detector, a new telemetry system, a space radiation detector, an ozone sensor, a sensor to measure the intensity of cosmic radiation, an infrared sensor to observe the balloon's behaviour in flight, a collector of particles, photometers to measure light intensity in the stratosphere, and a microwave reception experiment.
In all, will benefit from the flight the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Tulane University, Pennsylvania State University, Maryland Space Grant, Louisiana Tech University, University of North Dakota, West Virginia University, University of Alabama in Huntsville, Montana State University, University of Colorado and McNeese State University.
More information on the flight including pictures and a detail of the payloads flown can be obtained reading the flight sheet of the mission that we prepared.
Second balloon launched from Taiki and end for the campaign - 9/11/2008
Taiki, Japan.- On September 5, 2008 at 6:19 local time, was launched the second balloon from the new launch base for stratospheric balloons established by the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) in Taiki, Hokkaido.
The balloon was the largest available at this time in Japan with a volume of 300.000 m3. After release the balloon ascended at a speed of 330 m/s reaching the float altitude of 41.2 km while flying over the Ocean 40 km off the coast of Tokachi.
A few minutes after 9:00 local time was sent the termination command separating the balloon from the payload, which hanging under a parachute ended the descent touching the sea surface 30 km off the shore line and was recovered an hour later by a recovery vessel.
The flight -inteded to be a technological test like the first one- was very succesful.
Althought other three missions were expected to be launched before the closing of the window, JAXA announced yesterday that will be no more flights due to the prevailing winds in the stratosphere. According to the prediction models if another balloon is launched there is no chances of a succesfull recovery.
Probably, the next campaign will occur the next year in spring.