• January, 31 2017

    Balloon news in brief #1

    These are some news which appeared in media relevant to scientific ballooning during last weeks.

    Early December the EUSO-Balloon (Extreme Universe Space Observatory) instrument, completed its compability and hang test at the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Palestine, Texas. The instrument that will be launched in March from Wanaka, New Zealand in a long duration mission under a NASA Superpressure Balloon, was shiped from the Port of Houston to the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal, unloaded and moved by rail to the Pacific side and finally placed on another ship traveling to New Zealand. The journey was expected to take about two months.

    PILOT, a telescope developed by CNES in partnership with the IRAP astrophysics and planetology research institute and the IAS space astrophysics institute at CNRS, among other institutions, was declared flight ready and thus sent from Toulouse, France in mid-December with Australia as final destination.

    The instrument goal is to study the polarization of the cosmic microwave background and will be launched on his second stratospheric mission this April from the Alice Springs base, as part of a CNES balloon launch campaign.

    In last days of December, Pima County announced the completion of "Spaceport Tucson" which will become the headquarters, manufacturing and balloon launch facility for World View Enterprises under a lease agreement. The company plans to launch from there stratospheric balloons to support different science projects as well in the near future provide access to near space for tourists.

    Although World View received a temporary occupancy permit, the facility still is in the middle of a debate with the Goldwater Institute, an Arizona-based think tank, that filed a lawsuit against Pima County over the multi-million-dollar deal it made with the company.

    On January 6 through an obituary published in the Palestine Herald we learned about the death of Alfred Shipley. In 1971 he became the director of NASA's National Scientific Balloon Base in Palestine, Texas where under his leadership the operation made remarkable technological advancements. He was awarded the NASA Public Service Award for outstanding managerial competence, leadership and technical initiatives. He retired in 1987 from the balloon base; however his life work was later recognized when he was awarded the Otto C. Winzen Lifetime Achievement Award for outstanding contributions and achievements in the advancement of the free flight balloon system and related technology.

    On January 9, the Timmins Press, published an extensive interview to Joe Torlone, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) of the town of Timmins, Ontario, Canada, the place where French and Canadian space agencies established in 2013 a stratospheric balloon launch base. During the interview, among the countless anecdotes on 15 years of career, a funny fact arose when Torlone admitted that the balloon base project was almost lost because he believed that a voice message left on his phone by a representative of the Canadian space agency was actually a joke of his friends.

    On January 20, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that in last October, conducted high-altitude drone tests that could potentially support commercial spacecraft. The test consisted in the release of a drone denominated High-Altitude Shuttle System (HASS) from a high-altitude balloon. The system was developed by Near Space Corp. which also was in charge of the launch operations from the Johnson Near Space Center, located in Tillamook, Oregon.

    The test was used to evaluate how the equipment could help the FAA detect and track commercial spacecraft entering the National Air Space as it descends from space.

    "The Highest Jump" is the title of an excelent article published by the Air & Space / Smithsonian magazine, about Alan Eustace’s record jump.

    The article explains in great detail the development of the Stratex project which culminated with the record-setting jump on October 24, 2014, over Roswell, New Mexico.

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