Hand-launched balloons are small polyethylene balloons which can be flown in two different modes, either as a sounding balloon or as a free-floating zero pressure balloon. These are a durable style of weather balloon, which can be launched in winds up to 15 knots without issue.
Sounding balloons ascend until the balloon becomes fully inflated and then burst with the payload returning to the ground on a parachute. Zero pressure balloons are equipped with ducts to equalize the pressure at the base of the balloon, allowing the balloon to go into float, moving with the wind at a constant altitude and allowing for a longer flight duration.
Hand-launched balloons require some accessories for successful flights and other accessories make accomplishing the flight much easier.
No accessories required, a burst panel is a recommended accessory.
A rectangular piece of film, installed in the balloon body, which is slightly weaker than the surrounding balloon envelope material. It assures rapid deflation of the balloon at burst altitude. Balloons without a burst panel can deflate more slowly and take longer to reach the ground.
Zero Pressure Balloons
Zero pressure balloons require a channel duct and a destruct device.
A part of the base material in the balloon is left open to the atmosphere to allow gas to escape once the balloon is fully inflated. This allows the balloon to reach an equilibrium altitude.
A rip panel installed at the top of the balloon which is attached to a ripcord that passes through the base of the balloon to the payload. As the payload is released from the base of the balloon, the rip panel is torn open and rapidly deflates the balloon.
All balloon flights must be conducted in accordance with FAA regulations or the rules of the governing airspace regulatory body where the flights are to be conducted. Prior to purchase of a high altitude balloon, you will be asked for the appropriate documentation confirming compliance with said regulations.
If you require assistance with flight planning and operations for your high altitude balloon mission, Aerostar can also provide flight services.