NASA Will Attempt Balloon Flight Duration Record

©NASA

Super pressure balloon

After years of tests and development, NASA's Balloon Program team is on the cusp of expanding the envelope in high-altitude, heavy-lift ballooning with its super pressure balloon (SPB) technology.

NASA's scientific balloon experts are in Wanaka, New Zealand, prepping for the fourth flight of an 18.8 million-cubic-foot (532,000 cubic-meter) balloon, with the ambitious goal of achieving an ultra-long-duration flight of up to 100 days at mid-latitudes.

Launch of the pumpkin-shaped, football stadium-size balloon is scheduled for sometime after April 1, 2016, from Wanaka Airport, pending final checkouts and flight readiness of the balloon and supporting systems.

Once launched, the SPB, which is made from 22-acres of polyethylene film similar to a sandwich bag, but stronger and more durable will ascend to a nearly constant float altitude of 110,000 feet (33.5 km). The balloon will travel eastward carrying a 2,260-pound (1,025 kg) payload consisting of tracking, communications and scientific instruments. NASA expects the SPB to circumnavigate the globe once every one to three weeks, depending on wind speeds in the stratosphere.

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