NASA Delays Launch Of Super Pressure Balloon That Carries Space Observatory

First Posted: Apr 11, 2017 04:50 AM EDT

The launch of NASA's super pressure balloon (SPB) has been delayed for the third time due to poor weather conditions, according to a recent report. The launch was supposed to take place from New Zealand’s Wanaka Airport.

According to a Deccan Chronicle report, the wind speeds in the area were a bit more than needed for launch. Moreover, there was also uncertainty regarding the precipitation that made the team postpone the launch.

This is the third time that the 2017 Wanaka Balloon Campaign met with launch failure in New Zealand. The first attempt was delayed because of unacceptable stratosphere wind conditions. The second launch attempt met with a mechanical issue regarding a crane, which led it to be postponed once again.

The purpose of the flight is to test and validate the super pressure balloon technology with the goal of long-duration flight over 100 days at mid-latitudes. In addition, “the University of Chicago's Extreme Universe Space Observatory on a Super Pressure Balloon (EUSO-SPB) is a mission of opportunity flying on the 2017 SPB test flight,” as stated by NASA.

Incidentally, the EUSO-SPB has been designed to spot high-energy cosmic rays, which originate from outside the Milky Way, as they penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere. The high-energy cosmic ray particles interact with the air’s nitrogen molecules as they enter the atmosphere, thereby creating a UV fluorescence light.

The super pressure balloon, which measures 18.8 million cubic feet, will reach an operational float altitude of 110,000 feet after launch. The U.S. space agency has estimated that SPB will circumnavigate Earth about the mid-latitudes of the Southern Hemisphere -- once in one to three weeks, depending on the stratosphere’s wind speeds.

The American space agency has collaborated with New Zealand’s air navigation service provider Airways, Wanaka Airport team, Queenstown Airport Corporation and Queenstown Lakes District Council for the project.

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