Status Report

NASA Aborts Space Research Balloon Flight

By SpaceRef Editor
February 26, 2001
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NASA scientists are working to determine why the maiden
flight of a giant research balloon designed to fly around the
world at the edge of space was cut short.

After developing a leak, the test mission of the Ultra-Long
Duration Balloon (ULDB) was terminated a little more than 4
hours into the flight. The large scientific balloon lifted
off Sunday morning from Alice Springs, Australia. The ULDB
reached an altitude of nearly 85,000 feet before the decision
was made to bring the balloon and its payload down.

The balloon and its scientific payload landed 132 miles west-
southwest of the launch site. There were no injuries or
damage to personal property. The payload landed upright and
appears to be in excellent condition. The cause of the leak
is not yet known and recovery operations are underway.

“A team is reviewing data from the flight and examining the
recovered balloon. A recommendation is expected by the end of
this week concerning the possible flight of a backup balloon
that NASA has available in Alice Springs,” said Steve Smith,
Chief of the Balloon Program Office at NASA’s Goddard Space
Flight Center’s Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, VA.
“We are confident in the ULDB concept and in providing
scientists with a new means of studying the Earth and space,”
he said.

The ULDB is the largest single-cell, fully sealed balloon
ever flown. While the test flight was expected to last about
two weeks, the ULDB is designed to support missions for up to
100 days. Balloons provide cost-effective platforms for near-
space observations.

The ULDB floats above 99 percent of the Earth’s atmosphere
and was carrying a 4,500 pound (2041.2 kilogram) payload. The
pumpkin-shaped balloon is composed of a lightweight
polyethylene film about the thickness of ordinary plastic
food wrap. Further information on the ULDB program can be
found on the Internet at:

SpaceRef staff editor.