NASA’s Super Pressure Balloon and SuperBIT Telescope Make History With a 39-Day Space Odyssey
After a historic 39-day flight, Nasa’s Super Pressure Balloon safely landed in Gobernador Gregores, Argentina, completing a record-breaking five full circuits. The agency now sets its sights on the next science mission.
Nasa achieves a milestone with the successful final flight test of an innovative balloon capable of safely transporting a telescope to the edge of space and back.
Following a remarkable 39-day and 14-hour journey, the Super Pressure Balloon, housing the cutting-edge SuperBIT Imaging Telescope, gracefully touched down. Launched from New Zealand’s Wanaka Airport, a renowned long-duration balloon program launch site for Nasa, the mission achieved a significant milestone.
On May 25, the balloon operators at the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Texas took action by sending flight termination commands after locating a secure landing site. As a result, the balloon disconnected from the payload, deflating rapidly, while the payload safely descended to the ground with the assistance of a parachute.
“This flight was, bar none, our best to date with the balloon flying nominally in the stratosphere and maintaining a stable float altitude,” said Debbie Fairbrother, NASA’s Balloon Program Office chief.
After its remarkable journey, the balloon gracefully landed approximately 122 kilometres northeast of Gobernador Gregores, Argentina. Throughout its nearly 40-day flight at an altitude of 108,000 feet, it achieved a groundbreaking feat by completing a record five full circuits over the mid-latitudes of the Southern Hemisphere. The decision to deflate the balloon was made based on careful analysis by the team, considering the predicted flight path that would have taken the balloon further south, resulting in limited exposure to sunlight and posing potential risks to sustaining power.
“Achieving long-duration balloon flight through day and night conditions is an important goal for our program and the science community, and this flight has moved the needle significantly in validating and qualifying the balloon technology,” Fairbrother added.
Upcoming NASA mission
Nasa has announced its plans for an upcoming science mission, set to be launched in July from the prestigious Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility. With an average of 10 to 15 flights annually, Nasa continues to conduct these missions from various launch sites across the globe.
“I could not be prouder of the team for conducting a safe and successful flight, and the science returns from SuperBIT have been nothing short of amazing,” said Fairbrother.