NASA said in a statement: “The purpose of the flight is to test and validate the SPB technology with the goal of long-duration flight (100+ days) at mid-latitudes. In addition, the gondola is carrying the Compton Spectrometer and Imager (COSI) gamma-ray telescope as a mission of opportunity.”
“The team performed a brilliant launch operation today,” said Debbie Fairbrother, NASA’s Balloon Program Office chief. “The balloon is pressurized, healthy, and well on its way for this important test mission.
“I’m extremely proud of our Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility (CSBF) team for yet another beautiful launch, and I’m thankful for the tremendous support from our Kiwi friends, particularly the phenomenal Wanaka Airport staff.”
The space agency added: “Two hours and 8 minutes after lift-off, the 532,000-cubic-meter (18.8-million-cubic-foot) balloon reached its operational float altitude of 33.5 kilometers (110,000 feet) flying a trajectory taking it initially westward through southern Australia before entering into the eastward flowing winter stratospheric cyclone.
“NASA estimates the balloon will circumnavigate the globe about the southern hemisphere’s mid-latitudes once every one to three weeks, depending on wind speeds in the stratosphere.”
“The successful launch demonstrates the value of an experienced scientific ballooning team and represents a partner NASA can count on,” said John Pullen, vice president and general manager, Technical Services Division of Orbital ATK’s Space Systems Group.
“The NASA/Orbital ATK’s CSBF team executed flawlessly on the mission and reinforced Wallops Flight Facility’s position as the world leader in scientific ballooning operations.”
The mission is designed to probe the mysterious origins of galactic positrons, study the creation of new elements in the galaxy, and perform pioneering studies of gamma-ray bursts and black holes. Long-duration flights are vital to these types of studies.