1 September, 2003
Today we launched a smaller ozone sonde balloon. It was quite windy and it was hard to judge if I had inflated it properly. There are six of us working a launch. One person stays in the science lab monitoring the computer, another two hold the balloon to keep it on the ground, I inflate it with a helium gun, and another two direct communications and attach the payload. We have to work together, and always be mindful of the wind direction. I spent the rest of the day installing Jason's thermometer on the larger OPC balloon package.
I thought it would be instructive if you knew the parts of the balloon. Our balloon is made of thin clear plastic, much like the bags in the produce section of your local supermarket. Beneath this is a ring that holds the load line and balloon cutoff (an explosive that cuts the balloon loose when it reaches a predetermined height). This is attached to the parachute which will open after the balloon is released. Beneath this is the antenna mast and the instrument package. The entire balloon stretches some fifty feet. While in flight the balloon will grow larger because the air pressure surrounding it lessens. You may notice this flying when your food packages have expanded. Or in reverse, if you fill a water bottle in the mountains and drive to the coast, you will see the bottle collapse from the air pressure. When the balloon bursts (or is cut loose) it is about 30 kilometers high, it falls to the ground via the parachute. There it will sit until October, and it is important that it not move about from the wind. An additional explosive cuts several lines of the parachute to keep it from catching the wind, and ice spikes surround the instrument keeping it from sliding on the ice.
I attach some pictures from a very good ballooning website
Tomorrow we have a bit of a rest as our next flight is not till the third. Weather is really great so far. I am told there is some solar wind activity coming in a few days.
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