NASA launched a super pressure balloon on a potentially record-breaking, around-the-world test flight.
The flight aimed towards providing inexpensive access to the near-space environment for science and technology research. The real purpose of the flight was is to check the technology of super pressure balloon as a long duration flight at mid-latitudes.
The balloon was launched from Wanaka Airport in New Zealand. The balloon is carrying the Compton Spectrometer and Imager (COSI) gamma-ray telescope as a mission of opportunity.
NASA expects the balloon to circumnavigate the globe about the southern hemisphere’s mid-latitudes. This totally depends upon the wind speeds in the stratosphere.
This is not the first time; a balloon is launched like this but before this, , previous balloon flights of the instrument have recorded low-frequency sounds in the stratosphere, some of which are believed to be new to science.
Moreover, this was the fifth launch attempt for the team. Previous launches failed due to weather disturbances.
The record of highest balloon flight like this is of 54 days.
Two hours and 8 minutes after lift-off, the 532,000 cubic meter balloon reached its operational float altitude of 33.5 kilometers flying a trajectory taking it initially westward through southern Australia before entering into the eastward flowing winter stratospheric cyclone.
This launch marks the beginning of the second SPB flight for COSI, which was developed by the University of California, Berkeley.
As the balloon travels around the Earth, it may be visible from the ground, particularly at sunrise and sunset, to those who live in the southern hemisphere's mid-latitudes, such as Argentina and South Africa.