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NASA’s massive SPB balloon develops an “anomaly” and crashes into the Pacific Ocean.

NASA SPB balloon at launch

NASA’s second super pressure balloon (SPB) carrying EUSO-2 had a successful launch today and was in flight for more than 24 hours. However, it developed a leak, and as a safety measure, flight controllers decided to terminate the flight over the Pacific Ocean, near New Zealand. According to NASA, while in flight, the SPB encountered a leak which led the team to drop ballast in order to keep the balloon at a steady altitude. Eventually, it was deemed safest to end the mission over the Pacific Ocean. NASA says they will conduct an investigation to determine the cause of the issue.

Debbie Fairbrother, NASA’s Scientific Balloon Program chief, said of the incident,

“This is an unfortunate end to the mission, and we will investigate the cause to help us continue to improve the super pressure balloon technology.”

Before launching its mid-latitude flight program in 2015, NASA conducted a comprehensive analysis of the environmental impact of open-ocean landings. To minimize damage to marine life, NASA uses a flight termination procedure that involves using the two-ton flight payload as an anchor to quickly pull the entire balloon flight train to the ocean floor. This way, the balloon avoids remaining in the primary water column zone where most marine species reside.

The SuperBIT, aboard the initial super pressure balloon, is currently on its fourth revolution in the Southern Hemisphere and is performing as expected. The mission began on April 16th at 11:42 a.m. NZST (April 15th at 7:42 p.m. U.S. Eastern Time).

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NASA SPB balloon at launch via NASA with usage type - Public Domain

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NASA SPB balloon at launch via NASA with usage type - Public Domain


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