POP 2 Launch 2012 - Winter Night Launch

Launched from the Svalbard Ny-Alesund research community to take advantage of  the dark winter sky.Principal Investigator – Dr. Paolo deBernardis, University of Rome LS – Italy

Co-PI’s – Dr. Silvia Masi, University or Rome LS – Italy
Steven Peterzén – President, The ISTAR Group – Bend, OR USA
Giorgio Amico – Field Operations, University of Rome LS

Launch site: Ny-Alesund, Spitsbergen, Svalbard

Date: January 2012
Volume: 3,791 m? (133,864 ft?)

Near Space Research (University of Rome La Sapienza) and The ISTAR Group (USA) launched two small stratospheric balloons during January, 2012 from the community of Ny-Alesund on Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard Norway (78?55?0? N 11?56?0?E) as part of the Polar Observation Platform (POP) campaigns. Ny-Alesund is the word?s northernmost functional public settlement. CNR (Italian) hosted the scientists at the Dirigibile Italia base and supported the launch operations with personnel Fabio Palmieri , Vittorio Tulli, and Emiliano Liberatori. Additional personnel support came from AWI/IPEV (Germany) who also provided helium for the balloons. Kings Bay AS manages the international arctic research station and provided excellent overall support.

The Near Space Research (NSR) campaign held three objectives;

1) The test of new electronic components and micro-telemetry system designed and built by the Physics department at the University of Rome La Sapienza and to test a new data systems.

2) Observe, in real time, the polar winter night sky stratospheric wind trajectories for planning future campaigns with heavy lift Long Duration Balloons (LDB) during the polar night.

3) to test new flight hardware developed by ISTAR.

The advantage of a winter flight offers the science teams observations without the solar radiation experienced during the summer months. The payload was a simple battery powered GPS and transmitter that delivered time, temperature, speed, heading, and altitude with IRIDIUM communication. The balloons were a cylinder design manufactured by Near Space Corporation in Tillamook, Oregon, USA. Each balloon was 3,791 m3 (133,864 ft3) with a payload range of 0 lb./ 0 kg to 85 lb. / 38.56 kg.

The first launch was performed in perfect conditions, -4C with < 1 mps. The balloon ascended nominally but then began to descend after reaching an altitude of 15 km. The balloon descended until landing on a glacier approximately 79⁰  46' N 15⁰ 22'  E. Recovery of the balloon and payload will be made when daylight returns to the far north. Suspect is simply the extreme cold (-68⁰ C) and sheer winds of the troposphere. Further investigations are ongoing.

The second launch operation was performed in perfect condition (-1C⁰ 0 mps winds). Ascent rate was 4.2 mps. The trajectory of the second balloon was a surprise as once float altitude was reached, the balloon turned from a westward climb-out to a southern track and continued in a SSE trajectory. The trajectory continued southerly through the next 28 hours crossing Norway and over Sweden. The winds were in excess of 80 kph. Upon reaching Gotland Island, Sweden, it was determined best to terminate the flight over an area of open fields.

The terminate commands were sent and the balloon separated from the flight train and the payload descended and impacted in a lightly forested area of Gotland near the property of the launch director, Steven Peterzén cousin Kaj Wiren, who, along with a friend, simply went and recovered the payload. Kaj then took it home to ship back to the University of Rome La Sapienza, Rome, Italy. The payload and flight system are in perfect condition. Amazing coincidence! The trajectoy was unlike any flight profile experienced in the past 8 years of launching stratospheric balloons from Svalbard.

The team will return to Svalbard in May of 2012 for additional testing and again during the winter of 2012 / 2013 to extend the investigation of the polar winter stratospheric winds in preparation for a heavy lift (large payload) winter campaign. For the 2012/2013 winter, NSR is planning a 15 balloon campaign. This marks the 5th winter stratospheric balloon launched by the NSR team from Svalbard.