NASA completes globetrotting SuperBIT balloon flight

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration on 25 May announced that it has successfully completed a flight test of its super pressure balloon carrying the Super Pressure Balloon Imaging Telescope (SuperBIT) science mission.

NASA said that the mission began at 11:42 am on 16 April from New Zealand’s Wānaka Airport — NASA’s long-duration balloon program launch site, and completed on 9:27 am EDT on 25 May. It took 39 days and 14 hours of flight for the completion of the mission.

“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 at the Agency’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

“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,» he added.

Balloon operators from NASA’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Palestine in Texas, sent flight termination commands at 8:37 a.m. EDT on 25 May after identifying a safe landing area over southern Argentina.

Following this, the 18.8-million-cubic-foot (532,000-cubic-meter) balloon then separated from the payload rapidly deflating, and the payload floated safely to the ground on a parachute touching down in an unpopulated area 66 nautical miles (122 kilometers) northeast of Gobernador Gregores, Argentina. Prior to to ending the balloon mission, NASA coordinated with Argentine officials.

The balloon completed a record five full circuits about the Southern Hemisphere’s mid-latitudes, maintaining a float altitude around 108,000 feet during its nearly 40-day journey.

“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.

In July, NASA’s Balloon Program is a science mission launching from the Agency’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility.

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