The CSIRO has announced it is launching a new helium-filled balloon into the Earth’s atmosphere in collaboration with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The space balloon has the capability to reach altitudes of 40km, extending above 99% of the Earth’s atmosphere.
Taking off from the NASA-owned Alice Springs Balloon Launching Station, researchers have chosen this spot in the Northern Territory because of its proximity to the Milky Way. CSIRO explains that when inflated, these balloons expand to a diameter of 100m and can usher ‘sensitive space telescopes and atmospheric survey instruments… high above the atmosphere’. As an alternative to launching rockets, these balloons are less expensive and will allow for continual development and easier improvement when needed. A balloon of this scale and technology will also help advance current knowledge of the galaxy, including the study of black holes.
This is JAXA’s third balloon campaign, who together with the CSIRO, will now embark on operating multiple space devices including gamma ray telescopes.
Image: GRAINE payload balloon shortly launch. Source: JAXA / CSIRO
This story is taken from the 13 April 2018 edition of The Warren Centre’s Prototype newsletter. Sign up for the Prototype here.