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Library > Fact sheets > Air Force High-Altitude Balloon Program


Posted 11/1/2010 Printable Fact Sheet

The Air Force High- Altitude Balloon Program uses scientific helium balloons to provide stratospheric access for research, development, test and evaluation needed by the DoD and other government agencies, as well as DoD-sponsored university and industry projects. The High Altitude Balloon Program is operated by the Air Force Research Laboratory's Space Vehicles Directorate, Integrated Experiments and Evaluation Division. High-altitude balloons are ideal vehicles for space environment qualification; meteorological measurements; optical, infrared, ultraviolet, and radar surveillance; radio and laser communications; and target simulation.

High-altitude balloons are low cost when compared to typical space launch platforms, non-polluting, low vibration, and highly reliable with quick response times, long duration flights, unlimited configurations, near unlimited launch sites, and fully recoverable payloads. Balloon flights take advantage of stable stratospheric wind patterns for trajectory prediction. Flight objectives range from incremental component testing to proof of total system Technology Readiness Levels. Payloads can vary widely in shape and size and can weigh from a few ounces to thousands of pounds.

High-Altitude Balloon Launch

High-Altitude Balloon Launch - The payload is held by the launch vehicle. The parachute is "in line" between the payload and the base of the balloon. The balloon bubble is released from the launch arm and rises as the launch vehicle accelerates forward. The payload is released once the flight train geometry ensures a clean ascent.

High-Altitude Balloon Launch

(Current as of October 2010)

Fact Sheet Point of Contact
AFRL Space Vehicles Directorate Public Affairs
(505) 846-4704

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