Nasa’s football stadium-sized scientific balloon to launch from Wanaka Airport

Nasa is preparing to launch a football stadium-sized, helium-filled super pressure balloon (SPB) from Central Otago.

From Rose at

16:13, Feb 26 2020

Nasa's super pressure balloon inflates at Wanaka Airport in 2017.

BILL RODMAN Nasa’s super pressure balloon inflates at Wanaka Airport in 2017.

The scientific balloon is expected to launch from Wanaka Airport in mid-April. It will run for about 100 days – floating at an altitude of 110,000 feet (33.5 kilometres) and sending back scientific data.

The Compton Spectrometer and Imager science team from the University of California-Berkeley will be on board.

The balloon will run for about 100 days – floating at an altitude of 110,000 feet.

NASA/SUPPLIED The balloon will run for about 100 days – floating at an altitude of 110,000 feet.

It will be the fourth time a SPB has launched from Wanaka since Nasa began balloon flight operations there in 2015. 

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In 2017, disaster struck when a balloon sank to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, after a leak forced a controlled sea landing 12 days after launch.

The balloon is 532,000 cubic metres in size when fully inflated.

NASA/SUPPLIED The balloon is 532,000 cubic metres in size when fully inflated.

The balloon and payload worth several million dollars could not be recovered. The exact cost of the upcoming mission is not yet known, but the 2017 balloon cost about NZ$1.6 million. 

Nasa communications spokesman Jeremy Eggers said changes had made to ensure the balloon stayed pressurised during the heating and cooling of the day-night cycle.

Balloon Program Office chief Debbie Fairbrother said the upcoming mission would be key to figuring out whether the balloon could be used to support larger and more complex science missions in the future.

“We’re excited for our return to Wanaka and look forward to conducting outreach, meeting with local leaders, and ultimately sharing all of Nasa’s work with the global community,” she said.

Queenstown Airport Corporation chief executive Colin Keel said it was a “privilege” to host the balloon program, which provided “many benefits” for the local community.

Nasa and the airport entered into a 10-year arrangement in 2017 to launch the balloons from Wanaka.

Another mission is expected to launch next year. The flight will be a test for the balloon launch of the US$40 million Galactic/Extragalactic ULDB Spectroscopic Terahertz Observatory (GUSTO) mission from Antarctica scheduled for December 2021.

It is set to be the largest mission ever launched on a Nasa balloon and will measure emissions from the interstellar medium – the cosmic material found between stars.

The data from GUSTO will help scientists determine the life cycle of interstellar gas in the Milky Way galaxy, witness the formation and destruction of star-forming clouds, and understand the dynamics and gas flow in the vicinity of the centre of our galaxy.

More information can be found on the Nasa website


Size: 18.8 million cubic feet (532,000 cubic metres)

The record for a Nasa super pressure balloon flight is 54 days.

Nasa’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility has launched more than 1700 balloons over 35 years.Stuff

Martin Harris

I have a lovely partner and 3 very active youngsters. We live in the earthquake ravaged Eastern Suburbs of Christchurch, New Zealand. I began commenting/posting on Uncensored back in early 2012 looking for discussion and answers on the cause and agendas relating to our quakes. I have always maintained an interest in ancient mysteries, UFOs, hidden agendas, geoengineering and secret societies and keep a close eye on current world events. Since 2013 I have been an active member of community, being granted admin status and publishing many blogs and discussion threads. At this time I'm now helping out with admin and moderation duties here at Uncensored where my online "life" began.

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