End of launch activity at McMurdo - 12/23/2009
Williams Field, McMurdo Station.- This will be our last update of the year regarding the stratospheric balloon launch campaign carried out by NASA at Williams Field airport near the McMurdo station.
BARREL #4 payload which was launched as mission 610N on December 16th was terminated three days later,on December 19 at 15:57 utc, landing near 400 nautic miles from McMurdo being followed three days later on December 21 by the BARREL #3 payload (Mission 609N) which landed 230 nautic miles from South Pole Station. Both terminations were performed by the scientific team of the project from their Mission Operations Center located at the University of California, Santa Clara.
As the BARREL team finally cancelled the launch of the fifth payload, all launch operations ceased. The only remaining activity at LDB site is regarding "winterizing" equipment that will be left on the ice for the next season and packing all the stuff that will return to the United States.
A minimal dotation of personnel from NASA as well from CREAM project will be left on the white continent to perform the CREAM termination and recovery and to assist the BESS group in the recuperation of their experiment.
Let's see how long will be the flight of the last balloon in the air, which continues to perform very well and is in the middle of his second turn to the South Pole (map at left, click to enlarge)
Merry christmas for everyone !
Of launches and recoveries - 12/18/2009
Williams Field, McMurdo Station.- Here is another brief report on the latests developments of the NASA Antarctic balloon launch campaign at Williams Field airport near the McMurdo station.
A balloon carriying the BARREL #4 payload was launched by the scientific team of the project as mission 610N at 22:30 utc on December 16th. The launch was performed without participation of the NASA balloon program personnel, whom merely supervised the development of the operations. As part of the program to train the BARREL group to launch the balloons by their own means, a third and last "pathfinder" balloon will be launched in the next days before the flight of the BARREL #5 payload.
On regard the CREAM V balloon, it completed the first full circle around the pole on December 16, crossing the line in a point 300 km south of the base. It continues to travel at 125.000 feet performing as expected. Also the BARREL #3 payload is working as expected while contines circling around the pole flying at 109.000 feet of altitude.
After several days of cancellations due to bad weather both in McMurdo and in the landing sites, two recoveries were performed this week. The BARREL #2 payload was finally reached by a Twin Otter that returned it to McMurdo on December 15. The project's staff is currently examining it to trace the origin of the power failure that forced to bring it down.
Next day, December 17, the landed gas bag of the Super Pressure Balloon that failed last week also was recovered. As it was located not so far from the McMurdo base was possible to use an helicopter. CSBF staff returned back the top and bottom fittings of the balloon as well some envelope material near it, but due to the reduced load capability of the craft was necessary to pack the rest of the materials to be recovered in a second flight to the site performed the next day. No official word has come out from the Agency yet on regard the SPB failure, aside a brief mention in the campaign news at Wallops website. A third launch attempt will be carried out in the remote campaign to Australia next year.
Finally, this week will start the operations for the recovery of the POLAR-BESS instrument flown on the 2007/2008 Antarctic campaign which is resting in the ice since then, near WAIS Divide (West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide) project site field camp, a small base devoted to drilling tasks to obtain ice cores to perform paleostudies. The site around the payload has been signaled and prepared by a field crew of Raytheon to allow the landing of the Bassler (C-47) plane that will be used to transport back to McMurdo the disassembled detector. According to the estimations, the recovery task will endure ten days.
NASA's balloon launch campaign update - 12/15/2009
Williams Field, McMurdo Station.- This is a brief report of the latests developments of the stratospheric balloon launch campaign being carried out from the LDB base established at the Williams Field airport, near the McMurdo station in Antarctica.
As we already informed, after several cancelled attempts to launch it in December 10 started the 608N mission devoted to test the scaled up version (14 million cubic feet of volume) of the SPB (Super Pressure Balloon), project developed by NASA's balloon program office at the Wallops Flight Facility. The main objective is to reach the "holy grial" of today's scientific ballooning: to perform long durations flights (up to 100 days) with heavy payloads (+ 1000 kg). At left can be seen the balloon while being inflated. The small balloon in top of it is used to hold the fabric erected as the helium enters and fills the bag. Once full inflation is achieved, that auxiliary balloon is released.
The balloon was released under an overcast sky at 10:21 utc, but at 13:04 utc when reached 108.000 ft while it was ascending to float altitude, it burst due to unknown reasons. Plans were drawn to try to reach the landed gasbag as soon as possible to try to determine the reason of the failure, but still was not possible even to perform an aerial reconnaisance of the landing area. As occured with the previous failed flight of the same model of balloon in June from Esrange, still no official news were issued by NASA about the incident.
On regard the BARREL project, the first payload launched as flight 606N on December 2 it was terminated on December 8 at 17:43 utc. The payload landed twenty minutes later 94 nautic miles SW of the point where is located the unmanned station known as the Antarctic Geophysical Observatory Number 6. As it continued to transmit GPS data through the Iridium link this indicated that the payload was in good shape.Until now, several attempts to reach both BARREL payloads #1 and #2 were cancelled due to poor weather conditions.
On December 13, a second pathfinder balloon was launched, with a double objective: to test a new balloon design and to train people of the BARREL science group in the manual launch procedures that would be used by them when the project start the full scale operations next year. The Pathfinder was launched at 0:11 utc and after reaching float altitude of 134.500 ft. landed at 16:29 utc.
Finally today, December 15, was launched the third BARREL payload as flight 609N the flight path can be seen clicking here. Payloads #4 and #5 are flight ready so probably they will be launched in the upcoming days. As the BARREL payloads don't need the use of the launch vehicle (THE BOSS) this season it will be put to rest early than anticipated. CSBF personnel started this week the process of "winterizing" to safe store until the next campaign, as well the packing of all non-essential stuff for their return to the United States.
To finish this report, we must say that CREAM V mission is performed very well and is near to complete their first circle around the pole.
Stay tuned for more informations soon.
Early termination for the second BARREL flight - 12/7/2009
Williams Field, McMurdo Station.- The second mission of the BARREL (Balloon Array for RBSP Relativistic Electron Losses) program, launched on December 6 as flight 607N had a very short life: the payload was separated from the payload at 12:22 utc merely 10 hours after launched, landing 20 minutes later in the Antarctic Plateau at 140 nautic miles NW of the Long Duration Balloon Facility of the NASA balloon program located at the Williams Field airport, near the McMurdo station in Antarctica. At right can be seen the flight path followed by the balloon from launch to landing.
A few hours after launched, the BARREL #2 payload suffered a power failure due to unknown reasons. After the failure was decided to terminate the flight to allow an easy recovery of the payload to study the origin of the power outage. A similar failure occured in the BARREL #1 payload, which currently entered in the polar vortex and is following an anti-clockwise path at 106.000 ft. Nevertheless that mission will be allowed to continue to collect as much data as possible of the behaviour of the instruments in the coldest points of Antarctica. BARREL is a project being carried out by the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Dartmouth College in Hanover and is aimed to obtain new information about Earth's Van Allen Belts, a ring of energetic charged particles that encircle our planet.
On regard the SPB (Super Pressure Balloon) it had a first launch attempt on December 6, but was finally cancelled, while the CREAM V mission is developing as expected, cruising at 120.000 ft. and following the standard flight route inside the vortex.
Stay tuned for more news as campaign developes. Also will be worth to visit the BARREL blog on the campaign:
:: http://barrel2009.blogspot.com/ maintained by the team on the ICE
First two Antarctic balloons launched - 12/3/2009
Williams Field, McMurdo Station.- With a merely five hours of difference each other the first two balloons of the seven (yes SEVEN) planned, were launched from the Long Duration Balloon Facility of the NASA balloon program located at the Williams Field airport, near the McMurdo station in Antarctica. At right can be seen an image of the launch of the first balloon for CREAM V mission taken by us through the webcamera located on the field.
The campaign started in middle October when the first staff from the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility (CSBF) arrived on the field. They found the movable payload assembly buildings already on site and the rest of the facility up and running, thanks to the work of Raytheon staff responsible of the LDB facility maintennance. First work on site included the setup of the communications on the buildings, the checking of the launch vehicle (the BOSS) as well the filling of the helium trailers to be used to inflate the balloons. After the first scientific groups arrived, the zone of the airport was hit in middle November by several "Condition One" storms that forced to cease all activity there. The strong wind caused no structural damage to the complex but removed a lot of snow from the soil, making it unsuitable for operations of the heavy vehicles involved in launch operations. Thus, an intensive work was started to hardener the surface, which lasted until last days of November.
While all scientific teams continued with the readying of their payloads, CSBF staff launched on November 25 an exploratory balloon (or "pathfinder") to follow the stratospheric winds and test the stability of the vortex. After a few days of flight, the balloon track showed a well formed pattern of circulation and the launch window was declared open.
According to the advanced planning for the campaign, the first launch place was assigned initially to the Super Pressure Balloon (SPB, formerly ULDB) to try to achieve the longest flight possible, but once the conditions to start the launch operations were met, the opportunnity was taken instead by the CREAM (Cosmic Ray Energetics And Mass) mission, which was succesfully launched at the first try on December 1st at 21:21 utc, numbered as 605N. This marked a new milestone as being the earliest launch in all the history of the LDB NASA operations in the white continent.
After an initial climb without problems the balloon reached float altitude of 127.500 ft. four hours later. The first hours of flight when the balloon is still under the umbrella of the high speed data link (LOS) were used by the scientific team on the ice to perform extensive calibrations and checkings. Once the LOS link was lost the monitoring and operation of the instrument were transferred to the operations centers at Palestine, Texas for the balloon segment and Maryland, Virginia for the scientific segment. CREAM is an instrument developed by the University of Maryland and NASA Wallops Flight Facility to explore the supernova acceleration limit of cosmic rays, the relativistic gas of protons, electrons and heavy nuclei arriving at Earth from outside the solar system. The experiment -which is one of the more complex ever flown in a balloon- is performing his fifth polar travesy.
Merely four hours later, a second balloon was launched transporting one of the five payloads to be flown this season under the BARREL (Balloon Array for RBSP Relativistic Electron Losses) initiative aimed to obtain new information about Earth's Van Allen Belts, a ring of energetic charged particles that encircle our planet. The mission nomenclated as 606N started at 1:00 utc on December 2, and after a nominal ascent phase the balloon reached float altitude of 119.000 feet at 2:50 utc. BARREL is a project being carried out by the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Dartmouth College in Hanover, (NH) under the guidance of Robyn Millan as Principal Investigator.
On regard the technical flight of the season to send aloft the NASA's formerly ULDB (Ultra Long Duration Balloon) which ultimatelly is refered to as SPB (Super Pressure Balloon) we can say that the balloon, their associated components as well the NCAR's Dropsonde System to be flown as "piggyback" payload were declared flight ready last week and is waiting their turn to reach the polar vortex. As you may remember, during the past Antarctic campaign, a scaled down version of that same balloon stablished a new endurance record of 54 days, but a late flight performed during the summer campaign from Sweden intended to cross the Atlantic to Canada, was terminated 4 hours after launch due to unknown reasons. The mistery on regard the result of that flight still remains since NASA's Balloon Program Office located at Wallops never issued a press release on the subject. Let's see how developes the upcoming flight.
Stay tuned for more news as campaign developes. Meanwhile, will be worthwhile to visit these sites to obtain more information on the experiments taking part of the campaign.
:: CREAM V flight campaign at University of Maryland website
:: BARREL home page at Dartmouth College website