NASA’s super-pressure balloon is set to launch from Wanaka in early May

A proposed launch in 2020, which saw the team travel to Aotearoa to begin preparations, was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are on the verge of perfecting our SPB balloon technology, which is poised to expand opportunities for all kinds of science and technology missions by providing relatively inexpensive, near-space access for long flight times. long-duration at mid-latitudes,” said Debbie Fairbrother, head of NASA’s balloon program office.

“For some kinds of science, we can achieve the same results on a balloon that could otherwise only be achieved by flying through space on a rocket. Certification of the balloon as a long-duration flight vehicle is essential to support larger and more complex science missions in the future.”

The SPB is a massive 532,000 cubic meter pressurized vehicle designed to hover at a constant altitude despite the heating and cooling of the day-night cycle.

When fully inflated with helium and at its operational altitude of 33.5km, the balloon is about the same size as Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.

SPB’s past flights have led to new processes and procedures for constructing the balloon’s top and bottom fittings to ensure the balloon remains pressurized during expansion and contraction caused by temperature changes, NASA said. .

The scientific and engineering communities have also identified long-duration balloon flights as playing an important role in providing inexpensive access to the near-space environment for science and technology.

The Wanaka team is aiming for the start of May for the launch of the ball.

After this year’s flight, the team plans to return to Wanaka in 2023 for two super-pressure balloon flights, each with its own science mission of opportunity, NASA said.