NASA balloons begin flying in Antarctica for 2014 campaign

December 19, 2014

NASA's 2014-2015 Antarctic Scientific Balloon Campaign took to the skies Wednesday, Dec. 17, with the successful launch of the Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna (ANITA-III) from the Long Duration Balloon (LDB) facility outside of McMurdo Station, Antarctica.

The NASA zero-pressure balloon lifted the 4,601-pound ANITA-III payload to an operational float altitude of 123,000 feet, or more than 23 miles above the Earth's surface.

"This was an excellent launch in light wind conditions," said Hugo Franco, campaign manager from NASA's Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility. "The balloon performed normally during ascent, and entry into float. Science reports all systems are working properly and have begun calibrations via LOS [line of sight]."

Poor weather conditions scrubbed earlier launch attempts. Now that ANITA-III is airborne, scientists will use its instruments to detect the ultra-high energy cosmogenic neutrino flux, which originates as a result of the integrated ultra-high energy cosmic ray interactions throughout the universe.

"I'm very proud of the crew on-ice for this launch," said Debbie Fairbrother, Chief, NASA's Balloon Program Office. "ANITA-III is a very large payload, and the team made the launch operations look easy!"

Dr. Peter Gorham, University of Hawaii at Manoa, is the principal investigator for ANITA-III. A much smaller balloon was launched several hours later as a mission of opportunity with the ANITA High Altitude Calibration (ANITA HiCAL) payload. Dr. David Besson, University of Kansas, is the principal investigator for ANITA HiCAL.

The Compton Spectrometer and Imager (COSI) payload. COSI, a gamma-ray telescope designed to study astrophysical sources of nuclear line emission with high spectral and spatial resolution, is flight ready and the next large payload to be launched from Antarctica. Dr. Steven Boggs, University of California, Berkeley, is the principal investigator.

COSI will fly on an 18.8 million-cubic-foot NASA Super Pressure Balloon (SBP), the largest flight of a SPB from Antarctica. Most scientific balloons experience altitude variances based on temperature changes of the balloon lifting gas between day and night. Super Pressure Balloons are the latest in balloon technology, enabling ultra-long duration missions on the order of 100 days or more at constant float altitudes due to the pressurization of the balloon.

"Super pressure balloons are going to be a real game-changer for conducting scientific investigations in the near-space environment," said Fairbrother.

The third flight planned for the 2014-2015 Antarctic Campaign is the Suborbital Polarimeter for Inflation Dust and the Epoch of Reionization (SPIDER). SPIDER is a balloon-borne sub-millimeter polarimeter using large format arrays of cryogenic bolometric detectors to produce high-fidelity images of the southern sky. Dr. William Jones, Princeton University, is the principal investigator. The SPIDER team is finishing preparations to become flight ready.

NASA's Wallops Flight Facility manages the agency's scientific Balloon Program with 10 to 15 flights each year from launch sites worldwide. The balloons are massive in volume; the average-sized balloon could hold the volume of nearly 200 blimps. Previous work on balloons have contributed to confirming the Big Bang Theory. In addition, balloons have been used to test new technologies, such as the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator, which will enable NASA to land larger, heavier payloads on Mars.
-end-
For more information on NASA's Scientific Balloon Program, see:

http://sites.wff.nasa.gov/code820/index.htmlTo track the balloon flight real time, see http://www.csbf.nasa.gov/map/balloon7/flight657n.htm

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

Related Antarctica Articles from Brightsurf:

Ice loss likely to continue in Antarctica
A new international study led by Monash University climate scientists has revealed that ice loss in Antarctica persisted for many centuries after it was initiated and is expected to continue.

Antarctica: cracks in the ice
In recent years, the Pine Island Glacier and the Thwaites Glacier on West-Antarctica have been undergoing rapid changes, with potentially major consequences for rising sea levels.

Equatorial winds ripple down to Antarctica
A CIRES-led team has uncovered a critical connection between winds at Earth's equator and atmospheric waves 6,000 miles away at the South Pole.

Antarctica more widely impacted by humans than previously thought
Using a data set of 2.7 million human activity records, the team showed just how extensive human use of Antarctica has been over the last 200 years

Antarctica more widely impacted than previously thought
Researchers at Australia's Monash University, using a data set of 2.7 million human activity records, have shown just how extensive human use of Antarctica has been over the last 200 years.

Predicting non-native invasions in Antarctica
A new study identifies the non-native species most likely to invade the Antarctic Peninsula region over the next decade.

Persistent drizzle at sub-zero temps in Antarctica
When the temperature drops below freezing, snow and ice are expected to follow.

Human 'footprint' on Antarctica measured for first time
The full extent of the human 'footprint' on Antarctica has been revealed for the first time by new IMAS-led research which used satellite images to measure stations, huts, runways, waste sites and tourist camps at 158 locations.

Iguana-sized dinosaur cousin discovered in Antarctica
Scientists have discovered the fossils of an iguana-sized reptile, which they named 'Antarctic king,' that lived at the South Pole 250 million years ago (it used to be warmer).

Scientists drill to record depths in West Antarctica
A team of scientists and engineers has for the first time successfully drilled over two kilometres through the ice sheet in West Antarctica using hot water.

Read More: Antarctica News and Antarctica Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.