NASA balloon launch halted due to mechanical problem

At 11 a.m., the balloon had been inflated ready to take off from Wanaka. Photo/NASA

Nasa’s super-pressure balloon will not be launched from Wanaka after a sixth unsuccessful attempt.

At 11.45am, an airport spokesperson said: ‘Devastating news. Due to a technical problem with the balloon’s winch, the launch attempt is terminated.”

The ball had been taken out of its box – a sign that it would finally be launched after a series of delays.

The weather was calm and cool with some lingering river fog surrounding the airport this morning.

Roadblocks had been set up restricting access along Luggate Freeway (State Highway 6), State Highway 8A and Mt Barker Rd.

A fifth launch attempt scheduled for yesterday was canceled due to unacceptable wind conditions.

Debbie Fairbrother, head of Nasa’s balloon program office, said the reason for the cancellation was that surface and upper-level winds were above 10 knots.

“A high-pressure system that would have provided the exact wind conditions we needed did not arrive in time for Thursday’s launch attempt,” she said.

Upcoming campaigns in Sweden and the US mean that today’s planned launch is the sixth and final attempt in Wanaka.

NASA began launching super-pressure balloons from Wanaka in 2015. Today would be the fourth launch.

The program has been temporarily halted due to funding issues and Covid-19.

The main purpose of the flight was to validate and certify the balloon’s technology and, in particular, the balloon’s ability to pressurize at high altitude and cope with heating and cooling during the day-night cycle, Ms Fairbrother said. .

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