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NASA Space Transportation Science Technology

Commercial Suborbital Balloon Flight Facility Takes Shape 54

Posted by samzenpus
from the up-up-and-away dept.
coondoggie writes "The Near Space Corporation this week said it would begin developing a $6.9 million phase of what it says is the first commercial high altitude balloon flight facility in the country. Commercial balloon flights to near space will be launched – though the company didn't say when — from the new facility in Tillamook, Oregon, including several of those reserved through the NASA's Flight Opportunities Program."
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Commercial Suborbital Balloon Flight Facility Takes Shape

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  • Call me when you've got orbitial balloon flights.
    • Does this [bigelowaerospace.com] count?
    • They already do that, although the latitude is rather high. I built a few pieces of a terahertz receiver for a balloon-borne radio telescope called the STO. It's designed to launch at McMurdo and circle Antarctica for a few weeks.
    • Re:"Suborbital"? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Dan East (318230) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @10:03PM (#39204605) Homepage Journal

      Orbiting isn't about elevation, it's about velocity. Even if a balloon made it to the altitude of the ISS, for example, it wouldn't be in orbit unless it was traveling at 17,000 MPH, which is the velocity required to orbit at that altitude and inclination.

      • Whoosh.

      • Orbiting isn't about elevation

        Elevation and velocity are inversely proportional [execpc.com]

      • Except that balloons have lift, so they don't need to orbit as fast as the lumps of metal that we call satellites. The typical orbital period of a balloon is weeks, not hours.
        • Balloons derive their lift from aerodynamic principles. They float in the atmosphere. By definition they do not go into space, nor do they orbit.

          The world altitude record is 53km, just over half the distance to the Karman line (aka. The edge of space). At that altitude, an object would have to be travelling at 7.9 km/s (which is mach 26) to be in orbit. A balloon would be ripped to shreds at that speed. Of course, the fastest (manned) balloon was travelling at 394 km/h, but for such a balloon to be in
          • My point is that there's no point in putting a balloon in orbit in the sense of a satellite, which is why this entire thread is silly. Why even discuss it? Because we've nothing better to do.
    • by Sulphur (1548251)

      Call me when you've got orbitial balloon flights.

      It was orbitching.

    • Actually, there have been a fair number [wikipedia.org] of balloons (inflatable satellites) in orbit. The most famous are Echo 1 and Echo 2 in the 1960s
    • by hey! (33014)

      Call me when you've got orbitial balloon flights.

      Actually, it's been proposed, and it's not as silly as it sounds. The idea is to get high enough with a balloon that an ion engine could operate. Then you'd slowly gain speed and altitude over a course of weeks transitioning from buoyancy to momentum as the atmosphere further thinned. Obviously you couldn't lift much mass this way, so some have suggested powering the balloon with microwave transmissions, reducing the need to carry fuel.

      Personally, I have doubts a system like this would ever be practical.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @09:23PM (#39204365)

    If I only had a friggin' nickel for every twit with a Powerpoint presentation saying that they were "going to begin development" of some cool, radical technology. I now interpret this phrase as meaning someone is contemplating getting off the couch to make a Powerpoint of what they are thinking of doing.

    Build the damned thing and fly it, or stop wasting my time with your empty words.

    • by DalDei (1032670)
      Are you living in the 80's or what. I don't bother getting off the couch to make a power-point ... I don't bother getting out BED for that.
  • First? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by camperdave (969942) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @09:28PM (#39204387) Journal
    Balloon flights have been suborbital since the Montgolfier brothers first launched in 1783. The only orbital "balloons" I'm aware of are Bigelow's Genesis modules. Commercial ballooning goes back to the late 1700s as well.
  • by wbr1 (2538558) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @09:38PM (#39204453)
    '99 Suborbital Balloons'
  • Near Tillamook is the Tillamook Air Museum [tillamookair.com], which is housed in a World War II blimp hangar. I wonder if the new facility is close by. The hangar might have been a useful facility but is (obviously) presently in use. Also the choice of Tillamook is interesting, with the previous construction of the blimp hangar. I wonder if the meteorological conditions in the area are good for lighter-than-air craft.

    • by riverat1 (1048260)

      I think the location had more to do with the fact that blimps were used for coastal patrolling during WW II so a blimp from Tillamook would have the range to patrol from the Canadian border to Northern California. It's usually somewhat windy there so I'm not sure it's the ideal place for lighter-than-air craft.

      • The winds come from the ocean and blow toward a largely unpopulated area. Sounds perfect for balloon launches.
        • by riverat1 (1048260)

          Sort of. The wind generally blows toward the Willamette Valley and Portland which is the most populated part of Oregon. Once you get east of there then yes, it's largely unpopulated.

          • Yeah, but who cares if a balloon lands an a bunch of hipster douchebags?* *kidding. I have hipster douchebag friends that live there.
  • Remember that it's a finite resource.
    • by tomhath (637240) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @10:16PM (#39204661)
      I'd hope they'll recycle most of it. A small tank/pump would allow ascent/descent without spilling much. But NASA has piddled away a lot of helium [bloggingstocks.com]on the shuttle so you can't be too sure.
      • by tunapez (1161697)

        Best! Blog Comment! Ever!
         
        I recommend you read the first comment before citing that particular article in the future, tomhath.

    • by NoKaOi (1415755)
      Why not use hydrogen? Are there other reasons not use hydrogen other than the thing might go up in flames (honest question)? I'm assuming we know how to safely handle it on the ground, since it's been done with hydrogen powered cars. As long as there aren't humans aboard, what's the big deal if you loose some small percentage of flights? Also, isn't hydrogen less dense that helium?
    • by khallow (566160)
      Indeed, we should never use finite resources!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    why not
    1. sew your own baloon
    2. build a hydrogen generator/solar collector
    3. fill baloon
    4. put extra weight and people in.
    5. fly!

    Don't tell me cause hydrogen is dangerous. gasoline is too.

  • No balloon has gotten higher than 53km. That's just half way there.
  • I must admit to a bit of envy. The group I work with (JP Aerospace) has to travel about 250 miles from our workshop to launch balloons (from Sacramento, CA to Black Rock Desert in Nevada). This place can launch them from the same spot where they make them. And there's almost $7 million for some shiny new buildings. I bet the chairs will be nice.
  • Near Space Corporation? That's a terrible name for a company. Though it may be apt for what they do and their honesty is commendable but it also gives away what they cannot do - "Oh we actually wanna be Space Corporation but we have neither the money/technology nor balls to do it, so we're just gonna be content with Near Earth Corporation"

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