Timmins is a small city located in northeastern Ontario, Canada, with a population of near 43.000 people. The local economy is sustained by it's major industry: the mining. In 2012, after months of studies all across Canada, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the Centre National de E'tudes Spatiales (CNES) have selected the city as the ideal place to install their new mid-latitude stratospheric balloon launch base.
The selection of the site
The initiative started after CNES losed their balloon launch capabilities from their own mid-latitude sites in Aire sur L'Adour and Gap-Tallard due to the growing of the population in payload landing areas and additional security constrains impossed by French aerial authorities. Initially, some consideration was made for a site located in French Guiana (Kourou), but after discarding the idea, CNES started to look to the extense Canadian territory. As Canada's stratospheric balloon program was scaled back about a decade ago for budgetary reasons, a first aproach between both agencies ended in an agreement to create a permanent balloon launch base there. So, in 2011 was re-created the CSA Balloon Program under the denomination of STRATOS.
A first step was to conduct a joint study to select the more adecquate site for the base. In the beginning it was considered the entire Canadian territory, from coast to coast, and in a subsequent step it was narrowed down to potential regions by using an elimination process based on a series of requirements. The more important ones were the low population density of the sourroundings, the location of the site below 53º N of latitude, considerable distance from large bodies of water (lakes, sea-shores), a safe distance from the US airspace and the Rocky mountains and a weather offering frequent launch windows. After this first study and a deep climatological assessment, 5 sites were selected: Saskatoon and Yorkton in the West, and Rouyn, Timmins and Val d'Or in the east, with weather favouring clearly the later group.
Once the selection narrowed to the three eastern sites, other factors were studied as low population density in key areas surrounding the cities, communication infrastructucture, lodging, and aerial transport. The fulfillment of these requirements along with a strong will of the Municipality of Timmins to get the balloon activities in their city, helped to make the final choice. It was decided to locate the base in the east sector of the Victor M. Power airport, close to the end of the 10-28 runway. The airport is located 10 km north of the city.
After the agreement with local authorities was signed, CNES, based on years of experience in the field, prepared the specifications for the facility. After a critical design review held between both agencies and the local government CSA organized the request to tender with the City of Timmins for the construction. The works on the terrain started in June 2012, and after nine months of work and at a cost of 3.4 millions (that were afforded with funds from CSA), the site was completed, and ready to start the first phase of tests by CNES.
The main building of the new facility is dedicated to the integration of the flight trains and the operational gondolas used in each balloon mission. It counts with a High Bay with a work area of 350 square meters. In the second floor of this building is also located the operations control room.
The other building is the Payload's Assembly, Integration and Test (AIT) hall which can host up to 5 payloads which can be prepared simultaneously. It counts with a useful area of 300 m2, and a height of 7,5 meters under crane hook.
A third building, similar in construction to the Payload's AIT but somewhat smaller is used as a storage shelter for the heavy launch support equipment.
On regard the launch area, it is located in the east end of the runway 10-28 offering an useful area of 400 meters of diameter, enough to allow the operation with the largest balloons available by the French program (Zodiac - 800.000 cubic meters of volume). As occur with all the operations in charge of the CNES balloon group, the launch method to be used at the Timmins base will be the auxiliary balloon technique.
In the operative side the CSA Canadian team is in charge of all safety aspects including communication with Air Traffic Control, cartography, the radiosoundings, the data acquisition and delivery to the CNES launch team before the launch decision is made, and the recovery of the balloon and flight trains after landing.
On this regard in September 2012, a recovery training campaign was performed with results totally satisfactory. This tests served to identify the vehicles needed for the rescue of the payloads: a truck, an helicopter, and a crane.
After a first round of technical tests held by CNES in June 2013 to test all the hardware and perform full simulations of diurnal and nocturnal launches, and to test in the field the different parts of the NOSYCA system, the first flight campaign was carried out in September 2013 when two balloons were succesfully launched, flown and recovered.
The first scientific balloon campaign was held succesfuly in the summer of 2014 and repeated on 2015, 2018, 2019, 2022 and 2023 under the generic name of Strato Science.
Table of balloons launched from Timmins Stratospheric Balloon Base
|Date||Hour||Flight Duration||Experiment||Payload landing place or cause of the failure|
|9/11/2013||20:35 est||10 h||TEST FLIGHT - BANA||40 km SE of Senneterre, Quebec, Canada|
|9/14/2013||1:25 est||13 h||TEST FLIGHT - CARMEN||NE of Amos, Quebec, Canada|
|8/21/2014||9:34 utc||7 h 47 m||OPENING FLIGHT - BANA||25 km N of Chapleau, Ontario, Canada|
|8/24/2014||20:55 local||8 h 6 m||EUSO-BALLOON (Extreme Universe Space Observatory)||In a lake 20 km NE of Elsas, in Algoma District, Ontario, Canada|
|8/28/2014||20:34 local||11 h||EDS (Effect De Serre)||100 km SSW of Val D'Or, Canada|
|9/7/2014||15:19 local||18 h 49 m||MIPAS-B2 (Michelson Interferometer for Passive Atmospheric Sounding - Balloonborne) + TELIS (TeraHertz Limb Sounder)||In Senneterre, Quebec, Canada|
|9/12/2014||18:00 local||9 h 43 m||SALOMON-N2 (Spectroscopie d'Absorption Lunaire pour l'Observation des Minoritaires Ozone et NOx - Nacelle 2)||80 km NNW of Amos Quebec, Canada|
|9/14/2014||22:55 utc||5 h 21 m||H2O||70 km N of Amos, Quebec, Canada|
|9/19/2014||1:36 local||16 h 7 m||CARMEN-2||70 km NE of Amos, Quebec, Canada|
|8/23/2015||00:18 utc||10 h 21 m||CLIMAT (Combinaison de Lasers et d'Instrument in-situ de Mesure dans l'Atmosphère Terrestre)||141 km WNW of Timmins, Ontario, Canada|
|8/27/2015||7:45 local||4 h 17 m||GOLD (Gueuse Opérationnelle à Lest Dimensionnable)||58 km ESE of Timmins, Ontario, Canada|
|8/31/2015||19:45 local||10 h 36 m||H2O||236 km SE of Timmins, Ontario, Canada|
|9/13/2015||7:15 utc||18 h 15 m||PARABLE (PAyload for Remote sounding of the Atmosphere using Balloon Limb Experiments)||Near Lebel-sur-Quevillon,Quebec, Canada|
|9/18/2015|| ||11 h 26 m||BIT (Balloon-Borne Imaging Testbed)||In North Quebec, Canada|
|9/21/2015||0:57 utc||23 h 54 m||PILOT (Polarized Instrument for Long wavelength Observation of the Tenuous interstellar medium)||In Quebec Province, 350 km E of the launch base|
|8/12/2018||3:50 utc||6 h||CLIMAT (Combinaison de Lasers et d'Instrument in-situ de Mesure dans l'Atmosphère Terrestre)||20 km N of Foyelet, Ontario, Canada|
|8/16/2018||8:26 utc||6 h||SPECIES (SPECtrometre Infrarouge a lasErs in Situ)||40 km SE of Timmins, Ontario, Canada|
|8/19/2018||4:30 utc||11 h||AIRBUS||40 km NW of Timmins, Ontario, Canada|
|8/23/2018||3:00 utc||11 h 6 m||CABUX||50 km SE of Timmins, Ontario, Canada|
|8/26/2018||3:20 utc||12 h||FAST-CARMEN||280 km W of Timmins, Ontario, Canada|
|8/26/2019||3:09 utc||12 h 24 m||CABUX||30 km W of Timmins, Ontario, Canada|
|9/2/2019||2:00 utc||15 h 30 m||LIFE (Limb Imaging Fourier transform spectrometer Experiment)||--- No Data ---|
|9/17/2019||20:34 utc||17 h 40 m||SuperBIT (Super Pressure Balloon Imaging Telescope)||--- No Data ---|
|9/20/2019|| ||---||PILOT (Polarized Instrument for Long wavelength Observation of the Tenuous interstellar medium)||Aborted flight|
|9/24/2019||5:36 local time||26 h||PILOT (Polarized Instrument for Long wavelength Observation of the Tenuous interstellar medium)||N of Saguenay, Quebec, Canada|
|8/12/2022||5:28 utc||13 h 14 m||CALASET||About 40 miles NE of Saulte Sainte Marie, Ontario, Canada|
|8/17/2022||11:15 utc||9 h 28 m||SOLAR||SW of White River, Ontario, Canada|
|8/22/2022||3:18 utc||18 h 50 m||IFTS||160 km NW of Timmins, Ontario, Canada|
|8/23/2022||18:02 utc||15 h 10 m||HEMERA 3||Near Val Paradis, Quebec, Canada|
|8/8/2023||11:00 utc||7 h 45 m||COMICS||In the Chapleau Crown Game Preserve, Ontario, Canada|
|8/15/2023||1:11 utc||---||BESAFE||In Grassy River, Ontario, Canada|
|8/22/2023||4:53 utc||5 h 10 m||HICIBAS||56 km W of Gogama, Ontario, Canada|
|8/27/2023||7:12 utc||14 h 30 m||pre-TRANSAT||30 km WNW of Timmins, Ontario, Canada|