Status Report

ULDB “Go” for Second Launch to the Edge of Space

By SpaceRef Editor
March 8, 2001
Filed under ,

Slowly rising from the Northern Territory of Australia, a
massive NASA balloon will again try to begin a journey that will
take it around the world on the fringes of space. NASA has given
the go-ahead for the second test flight of the Ultra Long
Duration Balloon (ULDB).

The next launch opportunity for ULDB could come as early as
tomorrow from Alice Springs, Australia.

On Feb. 25, the first full-scale test flight of the giant
balloon ended just over four hours into the flight. ULDB had
reached an altitude of approximately 85,000 feet when it
developed a leak. The flight was terminated and the balloon’s
science payload was recovered in excellent condition. However,
the launch window has closed for the science mission, so the
sequel flight will not carry a science experiment.

“A review team examined the recovered balloon and data from the
flight and identified a possible weakness in the experimental
balloon material that may have contributed to the first flight
failure,” said Steve Smith, Chief of the Balloon Program Office
at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Wallops Flight Facility,
Wallops Island, VA. “We have determined that it is best to
proceed with the second test flight using a duplicate balloon.
This flight will allow us to further study the material in the
flight environment and obtain extended flight performance data.”

“Three to four inches of rain this week has completely saturated
the launch area, but we’re hopeful it will have dried out enough
by the end of this week to conduct the flight,” Smith added.

The ULDB floats above 99 percent of the Earth’s atmosphere and
can carry a 4,500 pound (2,038 kilogram) payload. It is the
largest-single cell, fully sealed balloon ever flown. While the
test flight is expected to last only about two weeks and
circumnavigate the globe, the ULDB is designed to support
missions for up to 100 days. Balloons provide cost-effective
platforms for near-space observations.

The Wallops Flight Facility manages NASA’s scientific balloon
program for the Office of Space Science, Washington, DC. Launch
operations are conducted by the National Scientific Balloon
Facility, Palestine, TX, which is managed for NASA by the
Physical Sciences Laboratory of New Mexico State University, Las
Cruces. Australian operational support to NASA is provided by
the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organization.

For more information on the ULDB mission and to track the
flight, visit the Internet:

SpaceRef staff editor.