NASA’s Super Pressure Balloon Imaging Telescope (SuperBIT) has successfully completed its global flight test after an impressive 39-day, 14-hour journey.
The mission, which was launched from Wnaka Airport in New Zealand, which functions as the launch site for NASA’s long-duration balloon program, concluded on Thursday, May 25, at 9:27 a.m. EDT.
The flight, considered the most successful to date, saw the balloon maintain a consistent float altitude in the stratosphere, a significant accomplishment for NASA’s Balloon Program Office.
Prolonged Balloon Flight
Debbie Fairbrother, chief of NASA’s Balloon Program Office at the Wallops Flight Facility, expressed her satisfaction, stating, “Achieving long-duration balloon flight through day and night conditions is an important objective for our program and the scientific community, and this flight has significantly advanced the validation and qualification of balloon technology.”
The balloon operators from NASA’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Palestine, Texas, terminated the voyage at 8:37 a.m. EDT on May 25 to assure a safe landing.
The 18.8-million-cubic-foot balloon consequently separated from the cargo, deflated rapidly, and descended with a parachute.
It landed 66 nautical miles northeast of Gobernador Gregores, Argentina, in an uninhabited area. NASA collaborated with Argentine officials throughout the duration of the mission and is presently recovering the balloon and payload.
Five full circuits of the Southern Hemisphere’s mid-latitudes were accomplished by the extreme pressure balloon during its extraordinary 40-day journey.
The balloon ventured into the southern regions while maintaining a float altitude of approximately 108,000 feet, posing potential challenges in terms of electricity supply due to limited sunlight exposure.
As a result, it was decided to end the voyage safely by performing a land crossing, allowing the balloon and payload to be recovered.
Debbie Fairbrother expressed her pride in the team’s accomplishments, stating, “I could not be more proud of the team for conducting a safe and successful flight, and the science data collected by SuperBIT has been nothing short of astounding.”
Also see: NASA’s SuperBIT Floating Balloon Telescope Captures Tarantula Nebula in Stunning Detail
What Does the Balloon Program Have in Store?
In July, NASA’s Balloon Program plans to launch a scientific mission from the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility. The Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia administers the agency’s scientific balloon flight program, which conducts ten to fifteen excursions per year from launch sites around the globe.
Peraton, the operator of NASA’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Texas, provides essential services for NASA’s scientific balloon program, including mission planning, engineering, and field operations.
The CSBF team has effectively launched over 1,700 scientific balloons over the past four decades. Aerostar is in charge of the fabrication of NASA’s balloons.