Press Release

NASA Announces Name Change for Balloon Facility

By SpaceRef Editor
August 25, 2005
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NASA has officially changed the name of the National Scientific Balloon Facility (NSBF) in Palestine, Texas to the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling, (R-Texas) proposed the name change to the House Committee on Science on April 26, 2005, as a reminder of what the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia stood for: honor, bravery and the quest for knowledge for generations to come.

“This tribute to the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia is in recognition of the dedication and sacrifice made by those brave individuals willing to risk their lives to further humanity’s knowledge about space exploration,” said Vernon Jones, NASA’s senior scientist for suborbital research at NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, which manages the facility.

On February 1, 2003, the Columbia and crew were lost over the western United States during re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. The 28th and final flight of Columbia (STS-107) was a 16-day mission dedicated to research in physical, life and space sciences.

The Balloon Facility was established in 1961 by the National Science Foundation in Boulder, Colo. The facility was moved to Palestine in 1963 and was formally named the National Scientific Balloon Facility in January 1973.

In 1982, sponsorship of the NSBF was transferred to NASA. In October 1987, NASA awarded a contract to New Mexico State University’s Physical Science Laboratory, Las Cruces, N.M., to provide engineering and launch support for the agency’s Scientific Balloon Program and for oversight of NSBF operations.

The NSBF provides complete balloon operation services and engineering support to the scientific community in the United States and several foreign countries. Operation services include inflating and launching the balloon, tracking and recovery of the payload, tele-command and data retrieval. Engineering support includes design of balloon systems, research in balloon materials, and electronics’ design.

The facility has launched more than 1,700 balloons for 35 universities, 23 research agencies, and 33 foreign groups. Payloads up to 5,000 pounds are routinely flown on balloons of up to 40 million cubic feet in volume at altitudes exceeding 70 miles. Flight time varies from several hours to several weeks. Seventy-four on-site contract employees work at the facility and support NASA’s international balloon operations.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center’s Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Va., manages the scientific balloon program for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate.

For information about NASA’s scientific balloon program on the Web, visit:

For information about the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility on the Web, visit:

For information about NASA and agency programs on the Web, visit:

SpaceRef staff editor.