There and Back Again

View from a super pressure balloon
View of the Earth from a super pressure balloon floating at 110,000 feet (33 km). (NASA/file photo)
Wanaka Airport Sign
The welcome sign at the Wanaka Airport: “Home of the NASA Space Balloon Project.” (NASA/file photo)

NASA’s scientific balloon experts are back in Wanaka, New Zealand, prepping for the fourth flight of an 18.8 million-cubic-foot (532,000 cubic-meter) balloon, with the ambitious goal of achieving an ultra-long-duration flight of up to 100 days at mid-latitudes.

Launch of the pumpkin-shaped, football stadium-size balloon is scheduled for sometime after April 1, 2016, from Wanaka Airport, pending final checkouts and flight readiness of the balloon and supporting systems.

NASA’s Scientific Balloon Program first launched a super pressure balloon from Wanaka March 27, 2015, achieving 32 days of flight in what was the most rigorous test of the balloon to date. This year, the team has made some slight modifications to the fittings at the top and bottom of the balloon.

A super pressure balloon lifts off from Wanaka Airport.
NASA’s Super Pressure Balloon lifts-off from Wanaka Airport in 2015. NASA is back in Wanaka for a second launch of its super pressure balloon. (NASA/file photo)

With those changes in place, the team is hopeful they’ll achieve their 100-day flight goal, a goal previously identified by the science and technology communities as key for making SPB a competitive platform for a number of scientific investigations that would otherwise need to launch into orbit.

NASA will continue to update this blog throughout the 2016 SPB mission. In the meantime, check out this throwback to our 2015 mission!