Purpose of the flight and payload description
Project ICEF (International Cooperative Emulsion Flights) was an international research effort sponsored jointly by the National Science Foundation and the Office of Naval Research, under the direction of Dr. Marcel Schein, professor of physics at the University of Chicago. The objective of the experiment was to expose in the stratosphere during 24 hours two similar gondolas containing emulsion plates to track the path of particles nuclei created by the collision of cosmic rays with them.
The emulsion plates in each gondola was composed by a stack of 500 special photographic emulsions made by a London firm, measuring 18 x 24 inches, conforming a block weighting near 400 kg. When cosmic rays hit the fine-grain emulsions, they leave microscopic trails, or marks as fingerprints of known or new particles. The collisions can also indicate much about the cosmic ray which created the explosion.
The block was contained in a sealed cilindrical shape gondola made of aluminum, measuring 7 ft long and 3 ft of diameter with a total -full loaded- weight of 800 kgs. At right we can see Dr. Marcel Schein posing along one of the gondolasof the project (click to enlarge).
The best place to launch the huge balloons needed for the task was the deck of an aircraft carrier which sailing with the prevailing winds in open sea, generated an artificial "no wind" condition to allow the vertical inflation and launch of the balloons. For this series of flights the USS Valley Forge was selected, operating in the Caribeean sea, near the Lesser Antilles. The launch operations onboard where in charge of Winzen Research Inc. of Minneapolis.
Details of the balloon flight
Balloon launched on: 1/31/1960
Launch site: USS Valley Forge (CV-45)
Balloon launched by: Winzen Research Inc.
Balloon manufacturer/size/composition: Zero Pressure Balloon Winzen - 280.000 m3
Balloon serial number: 290.75-100x100-V-5
Flight identification number: WRI 862
Payload weight: 800 kgs
Gondola weight: 800 kgs
This was intended to be the second flight of the ICEF effort. The balloon, nicknamed "Skyhook Charlie" was launched on 31 january 1960, from the deck of the USS Valley Forge by vertical method, but the flight was not achieved due to harness problems which made the balloon not take the load from the ship at launch. The gas bag finally collapsing in the sea nearby.
No scientific data obtained due to balloon failure