MkIV Ballooning

Atmospheric research balloons can lift a heavy (2-ton) payload to 38 km altitude, above 99.7% of the Earth's atmosphere. From these altitudes, we can more accurately measure the vertical profiles of many atmospheric gases. There are three advantages of balloon measurements as compared with ground-based observations: 1) Higher vertical resolution 2) Long atmospheric limb paths provide high sensitivity to trace gases. 3) Much less H2O absorption which blacks out wide regions of the IR spectrum from the ground.

MkIV Balloon Launch Sequence (Daggett, California, April 3, 1993)

LEFT: The JPL gondola suspended from the launch vehicle during pre-launch check-out. The MkIV instrument is one of four JPL instruments flown together on this gondola. The others are SLS, Ozone and FILOS. Crush pads (brown) are fixed beneath the four bottom corners and around the upper corners of the gondola to minimize the shock of landing. Below the gondola hangs the ballast hoppers, containing 1200 lbs of steel shot. The total payload weight for this flight was over 4000 lbs.

MIDDLE: Release of the balloon. The launch vehicle shown close-up in the previous photograph is visible in the lower center of this photograph. It must be maneuvered directly beneath the balloon to prevent the gondola swinging into the ground after release.

RIGHT: Seconds later, the gondola payload is released from the launch vehicle and begins its 160 minute ascent to 37 km (23 miles or 121,400 feet) altitude. At launch, only a small fraction (1/300) of the total balloon volume is filled with helium. As the balloon ascends the helium expands, so that by 37 km altitude the entire 29 million cubic foot balloon is fully inflated. After 10 hours at float altitude this flight was terminated and the gondola safely descended back down by parachute (the orange object connecting the balloon to the launch vehicle) landing in New Mexico.

MkIV Balloon Gondola Preparation

MkIV Balloon Flights/Occultations (25 flights as of 2020)

Latitude (N)
(at 20km)
Longitude (E)
(at 20km)
05-Oct-198934.6-105.3133728Ft. Sumner, New Mexico Sunset
27-Sep-199034.2-105.6103628Ft. Sumner, New Mexico Sunset
05-May-199137.5-111.5153728Ft. Sumner, New Mexico Sunset
06-May-199136.5-113.0153228Ft. Sumner, New Mexico Sunrise
14-Sep-199235.2-110.9233928Ft. Sumner, New Mexico Sunset
15-Sep-199235.3-104.0224128Ft. Sumner, New Mexico Sunrise
03-Apr-199334.8-114.8173728Daggett, California Sunset
25-Sep-199334.0-107.5 63828Ft. Sumner, New Mexico Sunset
26-Sep-199333.1 -95.3133828Ft. Sumner, New Mexico Sunrise
22-May-199436.1-108.6143628Ft. Sumner, New Mexico Sunset
23-May-199436.3-100.9113728Ft. Sumner, New Mexico Sunrise
24-Jul-199656.7-100.91124*28Lynn Lake, Manitoba Ascent*
28-Sep-199632.7-113.1 43828Ft. Sumner, New Mexico Sunset
08-May-199768.7-146.0 83824Fairbanks, AlaskaSunrise
08-Jul-199766.4-148.3 73211Fairbanks, AlaskaAscent
08-Jul-199764.7-150.2 93211Fairbanks, AlaskaDescent
03-Dec-199964.2+19.3 63411Esrange, Sweden Sunset
15-Mar-200067.8+34.211294Esrange, Sweden Sunrise
16-Dec-200264.4+31.212315Esrange, Sweden Sunrise
01-Apr-200368.3+35.211325Esrange, Sweden Sunrise
19-Sep-200334.3-113.3 73628Ft. Sumner, New Mexico Sunset
23-Sep-200433.8-109.2113828Ft. Sumner, New Mexico Sunset
20-Sep-200535.2-114.1113939Ft. Sumner, New Mexico Sunset
21-Sep-200534.0-110.3132939Ft. Sumner, New Mexico Sunrise
7-Feb-200767.9 +21.0- 3412Esrange, Sweden Ascent#
22-Feb-200767.9 +21.1253412Esrange, Sweden Ascent#
22-Sep-200735.2-114.1103828Ft. Sumner, New Mexico Sunset
23-Sep-200734.0-110.3133828Ft. Sumner, New Mexico Sunrise
23-Sep-201134.5-108.8 63928Ft. Sumner, New Mexico Sunset
24-Sep-201135.7 -96.3144028Ft. Sumner, New Mexico Sunrise
13-Sep-201436.2-112.5 73928Ft. Sumner, New Mexico Sunset
14-Sep-201435.6-103.5 84028Ft. Sumner, New Mexico Sunrise
27-Sep-201636.0-107.6123828Ft. Sumner, New Mexico Sunset
07-Oct-201933.4-109.7 73828Ft. Sumner, New Mexico Sunset
* Flight inadvertantly terminated during ascent. # Balloon burst upon reaching float altitude.

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