In Search of Origins Scientific Ballooning

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.

Project Topics

Jun. 26, 2017 Updated

B17-04 Scientific Balloon Testing

B17-04 Scientific Balloon Testing

On June 24, 2017, at 3:33 a.m. JAXA launched B17-04, the second of the first series of Japanese fiscal 2017 balloon tests. When fully deployed, a 5,000-cubic-meter aerostatic balloon extends a 23-meter diameter. Built with new load tapes*, B17-04 was released from the Taiki Aerospace Research Field and ascended at 330 meters/m. JAXA is granted use of the Taiki Aerospace Research Field based on JAXA—Taiki-cho collaboration initiative. Hour and a half after the launch, B17-04 reached the float a...

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

Here are messages from Project Managers.