NASA Super Pressure Balloon Launch

www.csbf.nasa.gov |

2022 Launch

NASA has once again been based at Wanaka Airport to launch their Super Pressure Balloon. 

Unfortunately their final launch attempt today (Friday 27 May) has been aborted due to mechanical issues with the balloon equipment. 

Today’s launch attempt was the sixth and final attempt of the 2022 Wanaka Balloon Campaign.

We will update this page with details of the 2023 campaign later in the year when we have them. 

Can the public watch the launch?

Please note you won't be able to access Wanaka Airport for the launch.

Immediately after lift-off the balloon will be visible for miles around - the best viewing points will be on the Hawea Flat side of the Clutha River, on Mt Iron or on the hill on the Hawea side of the Red Bridge by Kane Rd.

You can view a live feed of the launch here. 

And track the balloon on its journey here. 

Road Closure Notice

On the day of the launch roads around Wanaka Airport will be closed for a maximum of one hour between 7am and 11am. 

Road blocks will be in place at the junction of State Highway 6 & 8A just north of Luggate, on State Highway 6 north of Stevenson Road,  and on Mt Barker Rd just north of the intersection with State Highway 6.

Detours via the Albert Town Bridge and Kane Road will be in place. 

See the map below for further detail. 

Road Closure JPEG2

Background

In March 2015, Wanaka Airport became the site of New Zealand’s first scientific space balloon launch.  

NASA and the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility (CSBF) launched a helium-filled space balloon as a trial to see whether Wanaka would be a suitable site to become part of its global scientific network. If the trial launch was deemed successful, future balloons would carry a payload of scientific equipment to help NASA’s investigations into the effects of cosmic rays on the atmosphere, the origins of the universe and the hunt for new planets.  

The 2015 Wanaka launch was a success and the $1.6 million super pressure balloon flew for 32 days, 5 hours and 51 minutes before being brought down in a remote area of Australia.

2016

The team returned in 2016 to once again launch a SPB from Wanaka. In addition to testing another SPB, the mission flew the University of California, Berkeley’s, Compton Spectrometer and Imager (COSI) payload. COSI investigated longstanding mysteries of the universe, such as those surrounding the births and deaths of stars, positrons, pulsars and black holes. The SPB was successfully launched from Wanaka on May 17 2016 and flew for 46 days.

2017 

NASA launched its third super pressure balloon from Wanaka on Tuesday 25 April 2017 (ANZAC Day) to perform another flight test of its super pressure balloon. In addition, the balloon will this year fly the University of Chicago's Extreme Universe Space Observatory (EUSO-SPB) payload as a mission of opportunity. To commemorate the day, NASA launched the balloon with a poppy attached in a nod to the ANZACs.

EUSO-SPB is a high-energy cosmic ray particle astrophysics payload that will test a fluorescence detector and its supporting technologies under the severe operating conditions of the stratosphere. This suborbital flight is a precursor for a mission being planned to launch the EUSO telescope to and install it on the International Space Station (ISS).

NASA also announced they will build a dedicated 600 metre diameter gravel launch pad for the 2017 launch. This will enable operations to run alongside normal airport operations on launch day and minimise the impact on users and operators. NASA has also confirmed its commitment to Wanaka as a launch site for up to the next ten years.

NASA completed its third mid-latitude Super Pressure Balloon (SPB) flight at 11:24 p.m. EDT, Saturday, May 6, after 12 days, 4 hours and 34 minutes aloft.

Flight controllers at NASA’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Palestine, Texas, conducted a controlled flight termination of the balloon, which slowly descended back to Earth impacting in the South Pacific Ocean about 200 miles south of Easter Island.

2022 

Read about the 2022 launch here. 

Launch videos

Wanaka launch, 25 April 2017

Wanaka launch, 17 May 2016

Wanaka launch, 27 March 2015

See the Wanaka launch as it happened:   

More information  

Visit www.nasa.gov/scientificballoons for more information.