Space Science Research Scientific Ballooning

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Jun. 14, 2016 Updated

Scientific balloon B16-01 experiment completed - High altitude flight test for Mars probe airplane

Scientific balloon B16-01 experiment completed - High altitude flight test for Mars probe airplane

JAXA conducted the second balloon release of the first scientific balloon experiment in JFY 2016 on June 12 (Sun.), 2016, aiming at a high-altitude flight test for a Mars probe airplane. The balloon was released at 3:33 a.m. on the 12th from the Taiki Aerospace Research Field, which is a base for cooperation between the host town Taiki. The balloon entered in a state of horizontal floating at an altitude of 36 km over the Pacific Ocean some 45 km east from the Taiki Field at two hours and ...

About Scientific Ballooning

Like satellites and rockets, scientific balloons provide opportunities for scientific observations and space engineering demonstrations. A helium-gas-filled balloon made of thin polyethylene film can float a payload into the stratosphere. Because of the loose restrictions on the size and weight of the payload, many challenging experiments with state-of-the-art equipment have been conducted. Recovered equipment can be upgraded for subsequent flight opportunities to obtain further scientific achievements. Scientific balloons brought up both scientists and equipment pioneering new space science.
From 1971 to 2007, more than 400 heavy balloons have been launched from Sanriku, Iwate. From 2008, domestic balloon campaigns are being carried out at Taiki, Hokkaido. Flights circumnavigating the South Pole have been conducted as long duration flights, and southern sky observations are being carried out by the Japan-Brazil international collaboration.

In order to fly heavier payloads at higher altitudes for longer durations, a new generation of balloons has been developed. Super-pressure balloons will enable us to achieve ultra-long duration flights up to several months, and ultra-thin high-altitude balloons enable scientific observation in the mesosphere. Since its first manned flight 200 years ago, balloons are still developing at the frontier of space exploration.

Characteristics of Scientific Ballooning

Development of next generation balloons

Since balloons ascending to high altitude need to be extremely light, these balloons are made of a specially developed ultra-thin polyethylene film. A new world record of the highest unmanned balloon altitude of 53 km was established in 2003 by a 3.4 μm-thick balloon. Now such balloons are utilized for ozone observations in the mesosphere.
Super-pressure balloons, slightly pressurized inside, do not shrink even after sunset, so that they continue to float at a constant altitude for up to several months. R&D is currently being undertaken into a structure to minimize the stress on the film and the construction procedure.(Photo: Indoor inflation test)

Mission talk by team leaders

Project Manager Tetsuya Yoshida

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