BOS Campaign, Ft. Sumner, New Mexico, Sep 2004

The JPL MkIV interferometer will perform a balloon flight from Ft. Sumner, New Mexico (34.4N, 104.2W), during September of 2004 in order to measure profiles of atmospheric trace gases of relevance to the AURA sensors. High signal-to-noise ratio solar occultation spectra will be measured throughout the mid-infrared region (650-5650 cm-1) at high spectral resolution (0.01 cm-1) at sunrise and sunset. These spectra will allow the simultaneous retrieval of profiles of more than 30 different atmospheric gases including O3 and H2O and NO2 which will also be measured by the HIRDLS and TES instruments on board the AURA spacecraft. On the same gondola will be the Far Infrared Spectrometer (FIRS-2), the Stratospheric Limb Sounder (SLS-2) and Balloon OH terahertz hetrodyne spectrometer (BOH).

The total payload weight is 3560 lbs. This includes the instruments, gondola, azimuth pointing system, batteries, the NSBF TM/TC system, and recovery tools. MkIV is powered by 10 lithium batteries each weighing 11 lbs and providing a capacity of 35 AH at 28 V. The gondola dimensions are 6 ft. x 6 ft. x 18 ft. It will be launched on a balloon of 29 MCF capacity, reaching a 38 km float altitude.

Weight Breakdown (Sep-18):

Weight Breakdown

ItemWeight (lbs)
MkIV (10)790
FIRS (7)740
BOH (14)635
SLS (3)185
Az Drive (3)200
Stump Ring140
Crush Pads88
Misc NSBF34
Grand Total4650


1) Numbers in parentheses are numbers of batteries, which weigh 11 lbs each. Instrument weights include batteries. Since the Sept 2003 flight, we've replaced O3 (61 lbs) by the new SLS (150 lbs). So that's a 89 lb delta. We've lost 33 lbs (MkIV 22lbs; AzDrive 11 lbs), which should leave us 56 lbs heavier than last year, if everything else stayed exactly the same.

2) 3560 lbs is the gondola weight measured by NSBF on Sep 18, 2004

3) 4650 lbs is the total allowed suspended weight, limited by the gondola structure.

4) "Misc NSBF" is mainly the ballast hoppers and valves.

5) The bottom crush-pads weigh 12 lbs each and the side crush-pads 10 lbs each, giving a total of 4*10+4*12=88 lbs. So NSBF can carry 968 lbs of ballast, which is 14lbs more than Sep 2003 (954 lbs). It's a mystery why the science payload is 14 lbs lighter than 2003, not 56 lbs heavier. Perhaps there have been additional light-weighting activities that I am unaware of.

Latest Update (Sep-22):

Geoff and Jess tie 2-2 in the Ft. Sumner Ping-Pong championship.

Launch Preparation, Sep 23, 2004.

While waiting on the launch pad, a fog bank rolled in, reducing visibility to < 50m. [Photographs courtesy of Brian Drouin]


Launch: 8:45am, Sep 23, 2004.

But the sun soon burned through and we had a perfect launch.

Recovery of Gondola: Sep 24, 2004.

The gondola was terminated at 11:32am MDT after almost 27 hours afloat, and landed 40 minutes later near Roswell, NM, less than 100 miles from the launch site. Miraculously, the gondola remained upright, so the shoulder crush-pads were not needed. All four bottom crush pads were completely crushed. [Photographs courtesy of Bob Stachnik]

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