2002-2003 Science Planning Summary

Aeronomy & Astrophysics

Dr. Vladimir Papitashvili
Program Manager


Station: McMurdo Station
RPSC POC: Ron Nugent
Research Site(s): Williams Field

Long duration balloon program (LDB)
Mr. William Stepp
National Scientific Balloon Facility (NSBF)

Deploying Team Members: Frank A Candelaria . Victor Davison . Andrew Denny . Derek P Dolbey . Gerald S Gregg . Scott C Hadley . Otto J Masters . Bobby Meazell . Mark A Metzger . Robert E Redinger . Donald Roberts . Glenn C Rosenberger . Robert G Salter . William Stepp . David W Sullivan . Thomas W Thomas, Ii . Robin P Whiteside
Research Objectives: Free-flying balloons offer many advantages over satellites as a means of high-altitude exploration: They remain at a specific location much longer and cost a fraction to launch. NASA's National Scientific Balloon Faciltity (NSBF), based in Palestine Texas, operates the Long Duration Balloon (LDB) program near Williams Field at McMurdo Station. NSBF staff work with researchers, launching, tracking, and recovering high-altitude balloons carrying scientific payloads into the stratosphere.

The NSBF will launch two stratospheric balloons, each with a volume of 28.42 million cubic feet and capable of ascending at a rate of approximately 900 feet per minute to a float altitude of 125,000 feet.

Both launches will take place at the LDB site near Williams Field, reach float altitude, circumnavigate the continent between 77 degrees south latitude and 80 degrees south longitude. They will be terminated and recovered on the Ross Ice Shelf or on the Polar Plateau. The launch window is mid-December to mid-January.

To terminate the flight an aircraft flies within line-of-sight of the balloon and sends a command to the payload from an onboard communication system. At the point of release, the payload will descend with a parachute to a predicted impact zone. Recovery operations then follow.

Field Season Overview:
This season NASA’s NSBF team will launch, track and recover balloon-borne instruments for John Ruhl's BOOMERanG project (AB-149-O) and John Wefel's ATIC (Advanced Thin Ionization Calorimeter) project (AB-143-O).

Team members conduct a pre-launch data retrieval test flight with an LC-130 aircraft, in case such a retrieval becomes necessary. Up to five small balloons with payloads are sent up to determine stratospheric conditions before launching the science payloads. Balloons with science payloads circumnavigate the continent and NSBF personnel use remote telemetry from aircraft to monitor their progress.

When the balloons return to the McMurdo area, NSBF staff terminate the flights by sending radio commands to the gondola. Depending on the locations of the payloads, team members will travel by helicopter, Twin Otter, or LC-130 aircraft to recover the instruments and data. Team members will break down the gondolas at the landing site, remove data disks and instrumentation, and return the components to McMurdo Station. If possible, the gondolas themselves will also be recovered.