April 26, 2017

Successful launch of NASA’s EUSO-SPB balloon

The EUSO-SPB balloon has taken off from Wanaka Airport in New Zealand to observe ultra-high energy cosmic rays

NASA successfully launched its football-stadium-sized, heavy-lift super pressure balloon (SPB) from Wanaka, New Zealand, at 10:50 am local time (0:50 a.m. in Central European Time) on Tuesday 25th April 2017, on a mission designed to run 100 or more days floating at 33.5 km about the globe in the southern hemisphere's mid-latitude band. The 532,000 m3 pressurised balloon carries a 2,495 kg payload.

EURO-SPB is the result of an international collaboration in which CNES and the French scientific community played a major role. The first EUSO flight was operated by CNES from Timmins base in Canada in 2014; most of the equipment was validated, and ultraviolet sky background measurements were taken as an essential step to design future flights. Several French laboratories in partnership with CNES had taken part in developing the instrument (IRAP in Toulouse, APC and LAL in the Paris area). These same laboratories also bring major contributions to the EUSO-SPB experiment, by supplying sensors and electronics for high-speed data reading. In addition to supporting these laboratories, CNES also provided EUSO-SPB’s gondola and takes part in EUSO-SPB’s in-flight operations.

EUSO-SPB's objective is to detect ultra-high energy cosmic rays from beyond our galaxy as they penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere. As these high-energy particles enter the atmosphere, they interact with nitrogen molecules in the air and create a UV fluorescence light. From its high-altitude vantage point, EUSO-SPB will look downward observing a broad swathe of the Earth’s atmosphere to detect the UV fluorescence from these deep space cosmic rays coming in from above.

As the balloon travels around the Earth, it may be visible from the ground, particularly at sunrise and sunset, to those who live in the southern hemisphere’s mid-latitudes, such as Argentina and South Africa.

Find out more:

Anyone may track the progress of the flight, which includes a map showing the balloon’s real-time location, at: http://www.csbf.nasa.gov/newzealand/wanaka.htm

EUSO-Balloon at IRAP: http://www.irap.omp.eu/en/observations/projets/projets/projet-is/euso-ballon

EUSO-Balloon at APC (in French): http://www.apc.univ-paris7.fr/APC_CS/fr/euso-ballon

CNES’s balloon programme (in French): https://ballons.cnes.fr/

Final preparations on EUSO
before lift-off in Wanaka

EUSO-SPB ready for lift-off