Winds scupper Nasa balloon launch again

A second attempt to launch a super-pressure balloon from Wānaka Airport has been called off, after the first attempt was called off yesterday.

Low-level winds forced the cancellation of NASA’s balloon launch yesterday, while today high stratospheric winds foiled the attempt.

Launch decisions are based on monitoring winds on the ground, at low altitude (up to 300 meters) and at high altitude.

Today’s cancellation was due to higher level stratospheric wind conditions at 33.5 km (110,000 feet above sea level).

Due to those winds, the balloon would have ended up in an “unacceptable flight path”, an official said.

An announcement around 2 p.m. today will be made on the prospect of another launch attempt for tomorrow.

Deborah Fairbrother, head of Nasa’s balloon program office, said yesterday’s launch was canceled due to low-level winds.

“Unfortunately the wind was above 6 knots and came from a transverse direction.”

Yesterday the decision to cancel was made at 9am.

Before the launch was cancelled, the team had begun preparations, laying down the balloon’s protective groundsheet and delivering it to the line of flight.

Those interested in watching the launch have been asked not to come to the airport for security reasons.

An airport spokeswoman suggested the Hāwea side of the Red Bridge near Kane Rd, the flat Hāwea side of the Clutha River or Mount Iron as safe viewing spots.

Fifteen minutes before launch, roadblocks would be set up, restricting access along Luggate Freeway (State Highway 6), State Highway 8A and Mt Barker Rd.