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NASA Launched Super Pressure Balloon for a Round-the-Globe Test Flight

May 18, 2016 07:04 AM EDT

NASA's fleet of spacecrafts doesn't just include state-of-the-art machineries, as it turns out, they also invest in classic yet upgraded technology. Just like the super pressure balloon which was launched last May 17, which left New Zealand and embarked on its mission to travel around-the-world, an attempt for a world record.


The flight will test the super pressure balloon technology for long-duration flight for more than 100 days at mid-latitudes said NASA in a report. The balloon is traveling with the Compton Spectrometer and Imager (COSI) gamma-ray telescope.


"The balloon is pressurized, healthy, and well on its way for this important test mission. I'm extremely proud of our Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility (CSBF) team for yet another beautiful launch, and I'm thankful for the tremendous support from our Kiwi friends, particularly the phenomenal Wanaka Airport staff" said Debbie Fairbrother, NASA's Balloon Program office chief.

The Register said that the balloon is as big as 92 Good Year blimps. The balloon is 532,000-cubic-meter (18.8-million-cubic-foot) with the operational float altitude of 33.5 kilometers (110,000 feet).

NASA is confident that the balloon will be able to complete its mission within the projected time frame.

"The successful launch demonstrates the value of an experienced scientific ballooning team and represents a partner NASA can count on," said John Pullen, vice president and general manager, Technical Services Division of Orbital ATK's Space Systems Group.

This project is initiated as a step towards future galactic missions to study the positrons and the creation of new elements in the galaxy including the gamma-ray burst and black holes. Studies with such intricacies would require long-duration flights, just like what the super pressure balloon is attempting to accomplish. NASA already formed a partnership with the University of California for the said mission.

The super balloon technology can also help scientists develop and enhance instruments for studying low-frequency sounds in the stratosphere.

However, the SPB mission had its fair share of obstacles. There were failed attempts to launch the balloon before it successfully flew to the air.

"We're absolutely delighted to see NASA's visit culminate in another successful launch," said Ralph Fegan, Wanaka Airport operations manager. 

The Wanaka authorities from New Zealand and the scientists involved in the project welcome the challenge involved in launching the super balloon.

"The project has provided fantastic exposure for our region and New Zealand to date, and this launch has helped us consolidate our relationship with NASA and its global balloon program.  It's been a pleasure to welcome the team back again, and we're very grateful to our airport users, neighbors and the wider community for their ongoing support" Fegan added.

For NASA the super balloon technology is integral because it offers a low-cost alternative to data gathering and scientific investigations.


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