Zero Pressure Balloons

Photographer Credit: Jörg Mitter/Red Bull Content Pool

"The reliability of our balloons speaks for itself. From engineering through production, we acknowledge that we are taking part in making important contributions to science."

- Mike Zimmerman, Raven Aerostar Production Manager
 

Long-Duration Missions

Raven Aerostar’s Zero Pressure Balloons are employed to collect scientific data worldwide.

Designed to bring a payload to a specific altitude and remain aloft for a desired period of time, Zero Pressure Balloons can maintain altitude from a few days up to multiple months. These cost-effective, modern high altitude balloons are capable of both short and long flight durations.

Zero Pressure Balloons are a highly reliable platform for scientific and military users that have been utilized since the late 1940s. Filled with helium, these lighter-than-air (LTA) platforms can carry thousands of pounds to the edge of space. They successfully carry payloads from a few ounces to over four tons at altitudes in excess of 150,000 feet.

From hand launch to heavy equipment, Zero Pressure Balloons employ an ease of launch that allows the technology to be quickly and successfully deployed in different types of terrain to support a wide variety of missions.

Mission Possibilities

  • Scientific data collection
  • Remote communications
  • GPS augmentation
  • Intelligence gathering
  • Persistent surveillance
  • Reconnaissance
  • Radar calibration
  • Satellite simulation
  • Incremental testing
  • Research and development of sensors

High altitude balloons increase the line of sight (LOS) performance of sensors integrated on the balloon, providing increased detection, recognition and identification capabilities. The footprint of a single balloon at approximately 70,000 feet covers 282,000 square miles at altitude and can carry 200 pounds of tactical communication equipment.

Full Range of Capabilities

Raven Aerostar balloons are used in applications where reliability is critical. Aerostar’s flight operations systems and crews have an impressive success rate in conducting flight operations for customers. In dozens of flight operations per year, virtually every customer payload has been successfully flown and returned to the customer for data analysis. We have a success rate of over 95% with NASA’s payloads of over 6,000 pounds.

Proven History

For decades, Raven Aerostar has been on the forefront of high-altitude research and has a distinguished history of collaborating with university, scientific and military partners.

1959

Raven completed manufacture of a six million cubic foot scientific balloon. The balloon, which remained aloft for 11.5 hours, established the word’s altitude record of 150,000 feet.

1962

Raven was chosen to operate the National Scientific Ballooning Facility. This included the launch, tracking and recovery of balloon systems as well as housing the payloads in containers and using electronics to track the balloons in flight.

1987

Astronomers and astrophysicists launched a number of Raven Aerostar Zero Pressure Balloons to assist in the observance and study of Supernova 1987A. This supernova was the first to occur close to Earth since the invention of the telescope.

2011

An Aerostar Zero Pressure Balloon, flown by Cornell University graduate students, broke the world Amateur Radio High Altitude Ballooning records for highest altitude and largest balloon envelope. The near-space flight reached a maximum altitude of 135,030 feet, and the envelope’s fully expanded volume arrived at a record-breaking 141,000 cubic feet.

2012

Raven Aerostar built the Red Bull Stratos Missions balloon that carried Felix Baumgartner to 128,000 feet, shattering four world records. Baumgartner jumped from the highest altitude, and descended for the longest vertical distance on record. Additionally, he was given the record for highest manned balloon flight and first human to break the speed of sound in a free-fall without mechanical intervention.
Video Credit: Red Bull Stratos

2013

A Raven Aerostar manufactured balloon surpassed the duration record for a scientific balloon flown from Antarctica, having flown for 55 days, 1 hour and 34 minutes aloft. The previous record was also set by a Raven Aerostar balloon during the 2008-2009 Antarctic summer.

Highly Engineered, Technologically Manufactured

To reach an equilibrium altitude, Zero Pressure Balloons utilize a channel duct, which vents gas into the atmosphere once the balloon is fully inflated. Because the balloon’s pressure matches that of the outside atmosphere, during the balloon’s flight, the balloon’s altitude fluctuates with changes in the atmosphere. To provide a more consistent flight pattern, ballast is released (by radio command to a relay) to minimize altitude drops. At flight termination, the balloon’s destruct device rapidly deflates the balloon, and a Raven Aerostar parachute is employed to recover the payload.

Zero Pressure Balloon benefits

  • Low cost
  • Vibration-free
  • Highly reliable
  • Quick response times
  • Near unlimited launch site
  • Fully recoverable payloads