NASA 'Kilo-Kitty' Super Pressure Balloon goes aloft at last

New bigness metric: Gasbag said to be 'as large as 92 Goodyear blimps'

NASA's SPB with its tow balloon

NASA's latest attempt to launch its Super Pressure Balloon (SPB) in New Zealand has gone off without a hitch.

The launch of the kilo-kitty mission had suffered repeated weather delays.

After deciding to go ahead today, the balloon was laid out and a tow balloon inflated to lift the tip of the SPB off the ground.

That was followed – finally – by the launch itself.

Janet Letchworth, who heads up the project, says NASA is hoping the balloon can make its full 100-day journey this time around.

A previous mission ended early when the SPB was deflated over the Australian outback.

NASA's SPB with its tow balloon

The SPB with its tow balloon. Image: Wanaka Airport

The balloon, “as large as 92 Goodyear blimps”, as NASA puts it, is now cruising at 110,000 feet (33,500 metres):

Wanaka Airport's Facebook page has a video of the lift-off moment here.

NASA's tracking page – which should also help ground-based enthusiasts work out when to look out for the SPB passing overhead – is here.

The Compton Spectrometer and Imager payload the SPB is carrying is a gamma ray telescope that will study sources of nuclear line emission and gamma ray polarisation. ®

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