Ultra-Long Duration Balloon

February 01, 2001


Provided by: NASA/GSFC
Summary authors & editors: Jim Foster

The photograph above shows Goddard Space Flight Center's "Nightglow" payload being readied for an Ultra-Long Duration Balloon (ULBD) test flight in Australia. It's scheduled for launch in mid February. Balloons have provided cost-effective platforms for looking back at the Earth for more than a hundred years, and now that greatly enhanced computer technologies, high-tech materials and advanced designs are available, longer-range balloons will begin a new era in high-altitude research. Unlike conventional high-altitude scientific balloons, this new super-pressure balloon will maintain lift, size and shape, and will not lose significant altitude due to atmospheric influences.

This balloon is expected to float over the Southern Hemisphere at an altitude of approximately 115,000 feet (35 kilometers) - approximately 3 times higher than long-distance commercial planes. "Nightglow" will study the source of cosmic rays generated from shock waves emanating from supernovae and will perform surveys of X-ray emitting objects in the universe. The Wallops Flight Facility manages NASA's scientific balloon program for the Office of Space Science.

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