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Raven Industries Scientific High-Altitude Balloon Breaks Records

Antarctica balloon campaigns Raven Aerostar is involved with this summer:

  • Barrel – An experiment to study the Earth's radiation belt. A total of 15 balloons have been launched from three sites for an astounding 115 days' worth of combined flight time.
  • BLAST-Pol – Standing for "Balloon-borne Large-Aperture Sub-millimeter Telescope," this project is a telescope array, attached to a balloon, which is used to study the formation and evolution of stars, galaxies and clusters. The balloon flew for 16 days, 3 hours, and 17 minutes.
  • EBEX – A balloon-borne polarimeter designed to measure the intensity and polarization of the cosmic microwave background radiation, this platform had a flight time of 25 days, 11 hours, and 39 minutes.
  • Super-TIGER – An acronym for Super Trans-Iron Galactic Element Recorder, the project is a collaboration between NASA, California Institute of Technology, Washington University (St. Louis), Jet Propulsion Lab and the University of Minnesota.

There are two key reasons scientists want to take advantage of the Polar Summer for these experiments: consistent wind direction and constant sunlight. The combination makes it easier to predict the balloon's course and keep it at the desired altitude. The consistent wind direction allows a balloon to fly at almost the same latitude throughout its flight. Since the sun does not set in Antarctica during its summer, the balloons get to fly in constant sunlight, preventing the significant altitude variations that come anytime a balloon is exposed to nightfall.

"Flying balloons into the stratosphere is a capability our nation's scientific community must have to stay on the cutting edge," Stroschein said. "Who knows what wonders may be born out of these experiments? I'm excited to find out. Raven Aerostar is committed to its balloon program and perfecting how to fly them in the stratosphere. This is an affordable technology that has potential applications in a lot of scientific disciplines, including remote communications, GPS augmentation and intelligence gathering. The experience Raven Aerostar has gained through its work with NASA will help us to continually push the envelope on what is possible with balloons."

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