Weekly Balloon News #9 - January 3rd. 2023

These days of the year are always slow in terms of activity in the field of scientific ballooning, since Mr. Winter takes over everything in the northern hemisphere and as we already know, everything relevant to the activity occurs there. Therefore, it is not surprising that this weekly newsletter also follows the general trend by putting itself on "pause" for a few days. Likewise, some issues related to personal rest made this last installment first installment of the new year come after a long hiatus of almost three weeks. However, much of the little that needs to be reported is quite relevant. Here we go.

Recent balloon launches and landings

On December 12, Aerostar, the South Dakota balloon firm made a night launch from its never-disclosed facility in Santa Fe County, New Mexico. The balloon, a Thunderhead balloon with identification HBAL-614, crossed Texas, the Gulf of Mexico, Florida in a few days and after flying over the Bahamas it entered the Atlantic Ocean, where it was last detected in flight at 1:36 p.m. utc on December 18. Below we can see a map of its route. It will emerge elsewhere at some time?, we'll see.

With only three failed attempts on its credit -which in terms of Antarctic campaigns is almost the first attempt- finally on December 21 at 21:25 utc the SPIDER instrument began its Antarctic journey.

Let's briefly recall SPIDER is the acronym for Suborbital Polarimeter for Inflation Dust and the Epoch of Reionization which in short we could define as a balloon-borne experiment designed to search for primordial gravitational waves imprinted on the cosmic microwave background (CMB). After a slow ascent to float altitude of 115.000 feet, the 34 million cubic feet balloon moved across the Antarctic Plateau following the typical anti-clockwise trajectory mounted in the so called polar vortex. By the time of writing this -at the turn of the year- the balloon completed more than a half of the full circle to the south pole.

The real time location of the balloon and its cargo cand be followed here.

This is the second Antarctic trip for SPIDER after a first one experience that lasted a little more than 16 days in 2015. Also this mission is the first one carried out by the NASA Balloon program in Antarctica since January 2020 when the aftermath of the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak forced to cancel the 2020/2021 and 2021/2022 austral summer campaigns in McMurdo.

This year's small outbreak of the disease in McMurdo station also affected the planned launch schedule: the delays due to the two-week quarantine imposed by the authorities forced the cancellation of two other basically technological missions -but with scientific loads of opportunity- as I had mentioned in past editions of this bulletin.

What's on in the field

Retired Col. Joe Kittinger, a true world ballooning and aviation legend, passed away on December 9 at the age of 94. He was at the core of the most important manned balloon projects in the United States.

He spent his early career in the Air Force as jet pilot in Nevada and Germany until 1954 when he was assigned to the Air Force Missile Development Center (AFMDC) at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. On June 2, 1957, Captain Kittinger made a balloon flight to 96,000 feet above Minnesota in the first flight of the Air Force's "Project Man High". For that mission he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

After being assigned to the Aerospace Medical Research Laboratories, Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio, Kittinger was appointed Test Director of "Project Excelsior" investigating escape from high altitude. During this project there were three high altitude jumps accomplished from a balloon-supported gondola--from 76,400 on November 16, 1959, from 74,700 25 days later, and on August 16, 1960, from 102,800 feet, then the highest altitude from which any man has jumped.

On December 13-14, 1962, Captain Kittinger, accompanied by Astronomer William C. White rose to an altitude of 82,200 feet in a balloon over Holloman AFB, as part of an astronomical research project known as "Stargazer".

After serving three combat tours in Vietnam (at the end of which was shootdown and held prisioner), he retired in 1978 from active duty and started a career as an engineer at Martin Marietta Aerospace. While there, he devoted part of his time to his old love of ballooning. He won the Gordon-Bennett balloon races in 1982, 1984 and 1985 before accomplishing his most ambitious feat, a solo balloon crossing of the Atlantic. On September 14, 1984, Kittinger boarded the helium balloon "Rosie O'Grady" to begin his most daring flight, traveling more than 3,500 miles at altitudes ranging between 10,000 and 17,000 feet for a crash-landing in northern Italy on 18 September, setting then a record for the longest solo balloon flight as well as a distance record for this class of balloon.

Over the years, Kittinger was approached by many seeking his support and advice in recreating and surpassing his 1960 stratospheric leap, but he always refused. However, in 2010 he accepted to be part of the Red Bull Stratos Project as Baumgartner's mentor and capsule communicator at mission control.

Personally, I think that one of the best ways to learn more about the enormous figure of Kittinger is through his autobiography "Come up and get me", a must read for anyone interested in the matter.

Historically, balloons have been a fundamental tool in the validation of satellite data, since they allow in-situ measurements to be made concurrently with orbital platforms, "seeing" the same atmospheric parcel and then allowing comparisons of the parameters obtained.

Recently, the Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research published a research article on which the group compares data from the AEOLUS satellite launched in 2018 with wind observations from project Loon's stratospheric balloons (image at right). The wind satellite Aeolus has a powerful laser on board, called ALADIN which is the first Doppler wind lidar in space to provide profiles of horizontal wind speed from the Earth's surface or from the top of thick clouds up to a height of about 30 km on a global scale. In the study, data obtained from 229 stratospheric balloons of the Project LOON flown between July 2019 and December 2020 above tropical Latin America, Atlantic Ocean, Africa and Indian Ocean was used to compare Aeolus measurements in the same time/spatial frame (see image below).

The data set from LOON project is unique because it gathered in situ measurements of meteorological parameters (temperature, humidity, pressure, wind direction) in the lower stratosphere over poorly surveyed regions and extended in time. For this reason, it will not be strange that from time to time we will see research based on these data, which by the way, were made available to the scientific community and the general public, a few months after the end of the project in January 2021.

An interesting summary of the research can be read in Science Daily while the article itself is freely available on the website of the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society

On December 18, the inhabitants of a large part of the Province of Pangasinan, in the Philippines, were shocked by the presence of a bright object in the sky. From several cities in the region such as Bachelor East, Baguio, Natividad, Dasol, Sison and Dagupan City it was possible to see the strange visitor shortly after noon. Dozens of images and videos were taken by many people who immediately began to post them on social networks. What could be seen in the higher resolution images was a kind of very bright airship evolving at high altitude. Some calculations mentioned that the object was between 40 and 60 thousand feet, although it is not certain how accurate those estimates are or on what data they are based.

Despite the fact that the incident occurred almost two weeks ago, the clearest image of the event came to light on the first day of the year 2023 and it is what we see below these lines. The photograph was taken by Vinz Pascua from Dasol, Pangasinan at about 1:50 pm. The photographer used a 400mm lens with 2x Teleconverter.

A quick review of the hourly records of the different aircraft tracking systems at the time of the incident do not show any kind of vehicle moving in the area, outside of the usual commercial aircraft traffic. This does nothing but highlight the stealthy nature of the raid. We must remember that, for example, during a series of joint military exercises between the US and Philippine armed forces that took place on the island in March 2022, the Thunderhead stratospheric balloons launched as part of those operations carried a transponder that allowed their monitoring in real time. In the days following the incident, the silence of the Philippine authorities about the event -that still remains- only increased speculation that it could be a Chinese solar airship conducting a "testing the fence" exercise or some kind of electronic intelligence survey.

Some specialized media -and myself in my posts on Twitter- highlighted the similarity between the Pangasinan aircraft and the airship being developed by Sceye in the US. Some details of the shape and distribution of the control surfaces vary between the two models, but both appear to be constructed of a similar highly reflective material and have solar panels on top. However -and this is just speculation- it is likely that the fundamental difference lies in the way it is released. SCEYE's blimp operates out of a hangar in New Mexico and launches fully inflated.

On the Chinese side, its YUANMENG stratospheric airship -which all analysts point to as the possible culprit in the event- is released deflated in the manner of a common stratospheric balloon and gradually acquires its final shape as the gas inside, expands. This is no minor difference, as it would allow a "tactical" deployment of the platform from practically any of the dozens of bases that the Asian giant has in the disputed South China Sea. It is highly probable that the airship seen over the Philippines has departed from one of these bases and not from any of the huge hangars that have been detected by satellite but are located in deep mainland China. It is unlikely that an object of that size and visibility would go unnoticed on such a long voyage from Inner Mongolia to Philippines.

A new research building was inaugurated on December 12 at the University of Arizona Tech Park at The Bridges that will serve to test and prepare balloon-borne astronomy missions. The so called Mission Integration Lab, provides a high-bay hangar-like space which will allow researchers to prepare and test balloon payloads and other space payloads before their flights.

During the ceremony, were on display from two balloon-borne missions: the Terahertz Intensity Mapper, a NASA-funded balloon mission designed to create a giant map of galaxies from over 5 billion years of cosmic history and the Galactic/Extragalactic ULDB Spectroscopic Terahertz Observatory or GUSTO, another NASA-funded mission to carry an infrared telescope to study the lifecycle of stars in the interstellar medium.

Both mission will be launched by the NASA Balloon program in the near future.

Balloon image of the day

Since April 2021, I have published through my Twitter account (@stratoballoon) -at first daily and then more spaced out- a series of images from my archives that reflect important or curious moments in the history of scientific ballooning. Now, every week I will be including some of those posts in this newsletter. Those who want to see more similar content can do so by exploring the hashtag #BalloonImageOfTheDay

New contents in StratoCat

Last december, I've received a message from a visitor of the website regarding some typos he found in one of the flight reports of a balloon mission carried out in Japan. The correction to that flight -which was aimed to test the unfolding method of the membrane of a the future solar sail IKAROS- triggered a massive revision of several other Japanese balloon missions on the same time frame.

By the way, if you detect any type of inconsistencies and errors in the data published in any part of the site, do not hesitate to send me a message pointing out the error. Sometimes it is difficult to keep an exhaustive control of more than 15,000 flight records so any help is welcome.

Thus in this update, you could find expanded or new information on the flights listed in the table below.

Launch baseDateExperimentFlight duration
 Taiki2017/6/24BALLOON LOAD TAPES TEST2 h 36 m
 Taiki2016/9/5O2 AND NO2 OBSERVATION2 h 45 m
 Taiki2016/6/12MABE-1 (Mars Airplane Balloon Experiment One)3 h 20 m
 Taiki2009/6/19PHENEX (Polarimetry for High ENErgy X rays)10 h
 Sanriku2006/8/30SOLAR SAIL DEPLOYMENT TEST3 h 10 m
 Sanriku2006/6/13PHENEX (Polarimetry for High ENErgy X rays)12 h 5 m
 Sanriku2005/5/29SOLAR SAIL DEPLOYMENT TEST5 h 7 m
 Sanriku2003/8/23SOLAR SAIL DEPLOYMENT TEST3 h 38 m

As usual, all the flight reports are full of technical details, pictures -when available- and external references on peer-reviewed papers, freely available thanks to Sci-Hub and the open access community.

See you in seven days.

Balloons in flight (updated 9-Jan-2023 )

Launched fromIn flight sincePayload or experimentLast known status

Last completed balloon flights (updated 9-Jan-2023 )

Launch baseDateExperimentFlight duration
 Spaceport Tucson (AZ)2022/12/2TEST FLIGHT1 h 57 m
 Paso Robles (CA)2022/11/3THUNDERHEAD FLIGHT 61317 h
 Paso Robles (CA)2022/10/27THUNDERHEAD FLIGHT 61229 h
 Raven campus, Baltic (SD)2022/10/20THUNDERHEAD FLIGHT 61149 h
 Raven campus, Baltic (SD)2022/10/18THUNDERHEAD FLIGHT 6095 d 5 h
 Raven campus, Baltic (SD)2022/10/18THUNDERHEAD FLIGHT 61010 d
 Madras Muni. (OR)2022/10/12PAYLOAD UNKNOWN2 h
 Madras Muni. (OR)2022/10/7PAYLOAD UNKNOWN---
 Dachaidan2022/10/4SOLAR CORONAGRAPH---
 Dachaidan2022/10/2SOLAR CELL CALIBRATION2 h
 Dachaidan2022/9/30HEAVY PAYLOAD TEST2 h 24 m
 Raven campus, Baltic (SD)2022/9/28THUNDERHEAD FLIGHT 608~ 8 d
 Dachaidan2022/9/28MULTI-INSTRUMENTAL PLATFORM12 h 38 m
 Fort Sumner (NM)2022/9/28PICTURE-C (Planetary Imaging Concept Testbed Using a Recoverable Experiment - Coronagraph)19 h 20 m
 Fort Sumner (NM)2022/9/22TINMAN (ThermalIzed Neutron MeAsuremeNt experiment)7 h 30 m
 Santa Fe County (NM)2022/9/10THUNDERHEAD FLIGHT 6071 h
 Fort Sumner (NM)2022/9/8HASP 2022 (High Altitude Student Platform)21 h 7 m
 Fort Sumner (NM)2022/9/7BALBOA (BALloon-Based Observations for sunlit Aurora)8 h 45 m
 ESRANGE2022/9/7HEMERA ZPB202211 h 30 m
 Tillamook (OR)2022/8/31PAYLOAD UNKNOWN8 h
 Raven campus, Baltic (SD)2022/8/25THUNDERHEAD FLIGHT 60526 d 6 h 55 m
 Fort Sumner (NM)2022/8/25MULLENAX TEST FLIGHT21 h
 Timmins (ON)2022/8/23HEMERA 315 h 10 m
 Fort Sumner (NM)2022/8/23SALTER TEST FLIGHT5 h
 Timmins (ON)2022/8/22IFTS18 h 50 m
 Timmins (ON)2022/8/17SOLAR9 h 28 m
 Raven campus, Baltic (SD)2022/8/17THUNDERHEAD FLIGHT 604~ 44 d

Project Grab-Bag

April 7, 2022.- New entry in Stratopedia our somewhat forgotten humble project of a scientific balloon encyclopedia.

On this update let's know about Grab-Bag or how to spy on the Soviet nuclear program from home. The complete history and launch record of the first balloon-borne continuous sampling program of radioactive debris in the stratosphere carried out in the 50's decade.

StratoCat shift to "Ko-fi" for funding

December 5, 2021.- Recently, I've joined a crowdfunding website to get some help to keep this website up and running. Sadly, they changed almost overnight their payment options ruling out the only one system available in my country. However, recently I've discovered and moved to Ko-fi a way much better initiative. Take a minute and learn how you can collaborate with this project by simply buying a coffee.

The road to the biggest jumps

So long time passed since 2012, when I've published the interactive timeline of the history of all the efforts that led to the succesful completion of Felix Baumgartner's jump under the Red Bull Stratos project. Now I've added more information, including the incredible history behind Alan Eustace and project Stratex.

Latest publications

  • March, 5 2020

    The Stratospheric Report #07

    On this edition of The Stratospheric Report: HAPS Alliance unveiled; latest news from Project Loon including the usual up's and down's of the fleet; another setback for World View with the sudden termination of it's latest stratollite mission; closing of the NASA's balloon campaign in Antarctica while preparing for the next mission in New Zealand; wrapping up of the Strateole 2 campaign ; a review of the activity deployed by Raven Aerostar this month and finally some balloon-related news in brief.

  • January, 18 2020

    The Stratospheric Report #06

    On this edition of The Stratospheric Report we discuss latest developments in NASA's balloon campaign in Antarctica including the ill fated flight of the BLAST telescope; the sunk in the Atlantic of World View's Gryphon 16 stratollite mission; first round the world traverse of Strateole 2 balloons; latest flights by Raven Aerostar plus a review of what we know so far about Thunderhead balloon systems and finally the usual update on Project Loon including latest launches, landings and actual whereabouts of the balloon fleet.

  • December, 27 2019

    The Stratospheric Report #05

    On this edition of The Stratospheric Report you will find: updates on Project Loon including a new endurance record, overflight permission recently granted by Uganda's government, latest launches, landings and the current status of the balloon fleet; recent flights and new mark of World View's Stratollites; latests flight activity of Raven Aerostar; current status of Strateole 2 balloons in flight and first launch of NASA's balloon campaign in Antarctica.

  • December, 10 2019

    The Stratospheric Report #04

    On this edition of The Stratospheric Report you will find the usual update on Project Loon including some changes in leadership at Alphabet, advances on flight infrastructure at Winnemucca (NV), latest launches, landings and the current status of the balloon fleet; most recent flight activity of Raven Aerostar; the completing of the Strateole 2 campaign in Seychelles Islands and first glimpse to NASA's balloon launch campaign in Antarctica.

  • November, 24 2019

    The Stratospheric Report #03

    On this edition of The Stratospheric Report you will find the usual update on Project Loon including new contract to provide internet service in Peru, latest launches, landings and the current status of the balloon fleet; most recent flight activity of Raven Aerostar and World View Enterprises; the first three balloon launches for Strateole 2 campaign in Seychelles Islands; a misterious balloon mission by Zero to Infinity in Spain and finally some interesting balloon-related publications.

  • November, 5 2019

    The Stratospheric Report #02

    On this edition of The Stratospheric Report you will find the usual ups & downs of Project Loon balloons; some interesting -and accidented- activity of their cousins of Raven Aerostar; good news to World View about dismissed appeal on lawsuit and bad ones with a failed Stratollite flight; two balloon launches in Sweden full of student payloads; the Strateole 2 campaign starting in the Seychelles Islands, upcoming balloon-based tests for ExoMars parachutes in the US and finally some interesting balloon-related publications.

  • October, 21 2019

    The Stratospheric Report #01

    After almost a year without any actualization of this website, is with great pride that today I'm introducing the first edition of The Stratospheric Report a fortnightly news bulletin about scientific and commercial ballooning.

    From this pages every 15 days (or so) I will try to keep you informed of the current ongoings in the field of scientific and commercial ballooning: launches and landings, campaigns, relevant news from companies in the sector, conferences, publications and much more.

  • October, 20 2018

    Six balloon launch campaigns in a nutshell

    Between June and October 2018, six launch campaigns of stratospheric balloons were performed worldwide. Twenty succesful balloon missions were made, for the benefit of astronomy, astrophysics, atmospheric sciences, STEM training of students and technology advance. The scientific effort involved three transatlantic balloon flights from Sweden to Canada, a long duration arctic balloon mission from Svalbard to Canada, two flights over Texas, five missions in Ontario and three in Alberta, Canada, eight launches over New Mexico, and two short duration missions in Sweden...

  • June, 10 2018

    SuperBIT flight or the dream of any balloon scientist

    Palestine, Texas.- Launched at first try, undisturbed flight at altitude by hours, an instrument working as expected, and then landing it with minor damage in an unpopulated zone but with a nearby road for an easy recovery, is what I call a picture perfect balloon mission. I am not referring to some ideal scenario taken from some training manual of any agency's balloon program, but what happened from beginning to end with the SuperBIT telescope flight launched a few days ago from Palestine, Texas...

  • May, 27 2018

    Transatlantic balloon launch campaign from Sweden to Canada

    Kiruna, Sweden.- The NASA balloon program returned to Sweden to perform a balloon launch campaign from the facilities of the European Space Range (ESRANGE), near Kiruna, very close to Arctic polar circle. The missions to be performed during May and June, will consist in trans-atlantic flights from Sweden to Canada with a mean duration of 4 to 5 days and the recovery in the Nunavut territory. This flight scheme was inaugurated by NASA in 2005...

  • May, 6 2018

    The present and future of the French balloon program

    To know more about the present and future of the French Balloon program I've made a brief interview to Stéphane Louvel, mission manager of the Centre National d'Études Spatiales (CNES) stratospheric balloon campaigns all over the world.

    Past and upcoming campaigns, new technological developments and the current challenges of French and European balloon activities, are among the topics discussed with him...

  • May, 2 2018

    Second balloon launch in Australian campaign

    Alice Springs, Australia.- The second balloon of the 2018 launch campaign that the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is carrying out since late March in Australia, was completed successfully on April 26.

    The launch was carried out at 6:33 local time and after an ascent phase of near two hours, the balloon reached a float altitude about 38 km...

  • April, 20 2018

    Japanese balloon launch campaign in Australia

    Alice Springs, Australia.- Dozens of surprised inhabitants watched on April 7, the slow drift in the clean autumn skies of a very brilliant star, wondering what it was. It was not of extraterretrial origin, but its mission was in some manner related to the deep realms of space.

    The silver orb that mesmerized the ocasional sighters was in fact a huge stratospheric balloon launched early in the morning that day from the Alice Springs Airport as part of a balloon launch campaign by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)...

  • January 19 2018

    Antarctic balloon launch campaign ends without flights

    McMurdo Station, Antarctica.- The weather did it again. The Nemesis of NASA's balloon program during the campaigns developed last year, does not seem willing to resign its role in the new year that just started.

    After sixteen attempts performed from December 8th to January 14th, the team of scientists from Washington University in St. Louis and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in charge of the operation of the SuperTIGER instrument, finally communicated via social media that the campaign was called off. The instrument will be put in storage at McMurdo during winter to be hopefully launched next summer...

  • December 29 2017

    Winter night balloon test in the Arctic

    Longyearbyen, Svalbard Islands.- In the middle of the winter polar night a team of the ISTAR Group a balloon launch company based in Sisters, Oregon, United Sates gathered along with people from the Università di Roma - La Sapienza an other institutions from Italy and Russia to launch a stratospheric balloon from the facilities of the International Airport of Longyearbyen, located in the central part of the Spitzbergen Island, the largest one of the Svalbard archipelago.

    The goal of the mission was to test the behaviour of balloon systems during a long duration flight in the cold night of the Arctic winter...

  • December 24 2017

    World View balloon explodes during a test outside Tucson, Arizona

    Spaceport Tucson, Arizona.- The calm of the southern part of the city of Tucson, Arizona, was suddenly altered in the afternoon on December 19, 2017 by a loud explosion originated in the balloon launch facility built by World View Enterprises (WVE), 6 miles south from the center of the city.

    The incident occured while a static balloon test was underway in the launch pad. No details were provided on the nature of the test or the identity of the customer who requested the test.

  • November 1 2017

    PIPER flight closes NASA balloon launch campaign in New Mexico

    Fort Sumner, New Mexico.- 2017 will be remembered in the annals of NASA's scientific balloon program as a particularly problematic year.

    Following the loss of the EUSO-SPB balloon in the Pacific in May and the free-fall incident which ended with the destruction of the BETTII telescope in June, the agency's fall campaign held each year at the Scientific Balloon Flight Facility in Fort Sumner, New Mexico, came to an end with only two flights performed of the seven planned, after suffering the worst weather conditions in many years...

  • September 5 2017

    First balloon launch of NASA fall campaign in New Mexico

    Fort Sumner, New Mexico.- The first flight of NASA's Fall balloon launch campaign was performed yesterday, as mission 680N from the Scientific Balloon Flight Facility that the agency maintains inside the boundaries of the Fort Sumner Municipal Airport, in New Mexico.

    The purpose of the flight was to transport a series of experiments as part of the High Altitude Student Platform (HASP) program which every year since 2006 include up to twelve student payloads in a stratospheric balloon launched by NASA with flight durations of 15 to 20 hours...

  • August 11 2017

    JAXA closes its balloon launch campaign for this year

    Taiki, Hokkaido, Japan.- The balloon launch campaign started on June 5th by the the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) -part of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) since 2003- which was being carried out at the Taiki Aerospace Research Field (TARF) in Hokkaido, has been called off.

    In a press release published by ISAS in their Japanese language website in August 8th, the agency reports that were performed two succesful missions from the four originally planned for the campaign, and one attempt to launch a third one aborted during inflation...

  • August 5 2017

    First images of the BETTII remains after the free-fall accident

    Palestine, Texas.- A few days ago, on the same facebook page where we learned about the unfortunated accident suffered by the Balloon Experimental Twin Telescope for Infrared Interferometry (BETTII) past June, were published the first public images of the debris of the instrument after experiencing a free-fall from an altitude of 135.000 ft.

    The images show nothing more than a pile of tubes, electronics, and bend metal parts of the instrument...

  • June 24 2017

    BETTII twin interferometer destroyed in free fall incident over Texas

    Palestine, Texas.- The first balloon mission of the NASA summer balloon launch campaign being carried out from the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility, located in the outskirts of the city of Palestine, Texas, ended in the worst way.

    Accordingly to an entry published a few hours after by the BETTII team on its facebook page and later by NASA on its website, at the end of the flight, the payload was separated from the balloon following the standard procedure, when due to yet unknown reasons, the instrument separated from the parachute and free fell from an altitude of 135.000 feet, in west Texas...

  • June 8 2017

    NASA summer balloon campaign from Palestine base

    Palestine, Texas.- As long as the weather cooperates, while I'm writing this lines probably would be a rush of activity at the most famous NASA balloon base, the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility, located in the outskirts of the city of Palestine, Texas.

    The activity is part of the Summer balloon launch campaign at the base, which in 2016 returned to the launch activity after a hiatus of near 9 years. This year's campaign will involve the launch of three payloads...

  • June 3 2017

    GENETRIX spy balloon program data published in StratoCat

    After a six month work and a search that endured almost 10 years, I'm publishing today in StratoCat for the first time an extensive and comprehensive bulk of information about a secret program carried out by the US Air Force and other agencies to obtain strategic reconnaisance of the Soviet Union and their allies.

    GENETRIX, was a secret program started in 1950 and executed in 1956 by the United States Strategic Air Command (SAC) and other agencies, under the cover of a meteorological and scientific effort. However, the real objective was to obtain photographic reconnaissance of the Soviet Union using high resolution cameras transported by stratospheric balloons riding the jet stream...