NASA set to launch from Wanaka tomorrow

Photo: NASA

UPDATE:  Sunday, April 16, 2.35 p.m. Launch Attempt Scheduled for NASA Super Pressure Balloon


NASA is targeting Monday, April 17 (Sunday, April 16 in U.S. Eastern Time (EDT)), to conduct a super pressure balloon (SPB) test flight launching from Wanaka Airport, New Zealand, on a potential 100-day journey.


NASA will begin flight preparations in the early morning hours Monday and will continue to evaluate real-time and forecast weather conditions throughout the morning. If weather is conducive for launch, lift-off is scheduled between 8 and 11:30 a.m. locally (between 4 and 7:30 p.m. EDT Sunday, April 16).


This is the fifth scheduled launch attempt for NASA's 2017 Wanaka Balloon Campaign. A fourth attempt April 16 ended early due to poor weather conditions not conducive for a launch attempt.


  •   •  A live feed of the launch is available online here


Super Pressure Balloon Facts


  • Volume of the balloon when fully inflated: 532,379 cubic meters (18.8 million cubic feet); about the size of a football stadium
  • Diameter of the balloon when fully inflated: 114.5 meters (376 feet)
  • Height when fully inflated: 68.96 meters (233 feet)
  • Altitude at float: 33.5 kilometers (110,000 feet)
  • Amount of balloon film used to make the balloon (the film is polyethylene—the same material used in sandwich bags, though our film is much stronger and more durable): 8.9 hectares (22 acres)
  • The weight of the balloon combined with the suspended weight (gondola, flight train, and parachute) is: 4,909 kilograms (10,821 pounds); separately, the balloon weighs 2,414 kilograms (5,321 pounds) and the total suspended weight is 2,495 kilograms (5,500 pounds)

UPDATE: Sunday, April 16, 4.00 a.m. – Today's Launch Attempt Cancelled

Unfortunately the wind direction is unfavourable for a launch attempt so NASA has cancelled today's (Sunday's) launch

UPDATE: Saturday, April 15, 12.49 p.m. – Launch Attempt Scheduled for Super Pressure Balloon

NASA is targeting Sunday, April 16, to conduct a super pressure balloon (SPB) test flight launching from Wanaka Airport, New Zealand, on a potential 100-day journey.  

If weather is conducive for launch, lift-off is scheduled between 8am and 11:30am.

View road closure information on our NASA Live Updates

From Wanaka Sun (page 2) 13 - 19 April 2017

The wait for perfect weather conditions to launch the NASA super pressure balloon (SPB) continues with three launch attempts cancelled to date.

The first attempt for this year’s launch was proposed for Saturday April 8, but was cancelled due to unacceptable stratospheric weather conditions for operations.

Along with monitoring ground and lower-level winds (up to 300m) on launch day, stratospheric wind conditions at 33.5km, which is where the balloon will float, also need to be favourable to support a launch attempt.

While ground and lower-level winds were conducive for launch, winds in the stratosphere were not. A counter-clockwise flowing eddy developed to the west of New Zealand's North Island.

Forecast models had the balloon launching from Wanaka and then travelling north, bisecting the South Island before eventually getting caught up in the light and variable winds of the eddy.

Ideally, an eastward trajectory after lift-off is preferred, though not necessarily required.

The second launch attempt on April 9 was cancelled due to a mechanical issue with a crane used for launch operations, which has since been resolved.

The third attempt on Monday April 10 looked promising, but weather conditions were considered marginal for launch.

The 2017 Wanaka Super Pressure Balloon Campaign mission manager Gabe Garde said,

“In the stratosphere at 33.5 km, the winds are forecast to take the balloon due east after launch, which is ideal for our operations.”

Due to poor weather at ground and surface levels the third attempt was cancelled at 4.30am on April 10.

Wind speeds were just slightly above those required for launch, and with the uncertainty for precipitation in the area, the team made the decision to postpone the launch.

There are now multiple areas of low pressure with associated precipitation and unfavourable winds settling in over the country preventing NASA from attempting a super pressure balloon launch from Wanaka over the next several days.

NASA's on-site meteorologist for the 2017 Wanaka Super Pressure Balloon Campaign Chris Schwantes said,

"Conditions do not look favourable for the next four to five days given the winds, forecast rain, and uncertainties with Tropical Cyclone Cook to the northwest of us.  However, forecast models currently show high pressure building up in the area after the Easter weekend, which could lead to favourable conditions for launching."

“A lot of things need to go right to support a launch attempt, but only one thing needs to go wrong,” campaign manager Justin Marsh said.

“Our team remains flight ready to support a launch attempt once the weather improves. All things considered, it's still relatively early in the campaign.”

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RELATED:  NASA Live Updates | Wanaka Sun (April 2017)

NASA balloon taking flight | Wanaka Sun (March 24, 2016)

Why Wanaka works well for NASA balloons (March 27, 2016)

Flight Complete: NASA balloon sets record | Wanaka Sun (July 3, 2016)

NASA ready for Wanaka take off (March 30, 2017)

Read the Wanaka Sun Online here


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