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Thread: Up, up and away almost: NASA balloon accident

  1. #1
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    Up, up and away almost: NASA balloon accident

    BA Blog: Dramatic video of NASA balloon accident that destroys payload

    Dude just shouldn't have parked his SUV there. YouTube News video there, about 2 minutes.
    0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 ...
    Skepticism enables us to distinguish fancy from fact, to test our speculations. --Carl Sagan

  2. #2
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    Let me think...

    Checklist:

    1. Fasten upwind tether #1 to the top of the balloon.

    Check.

    2. Fasten upwind tether #2 to the top of the basket.

    Check.

    3. Fasten grounding tether to the bottom of the bask.

    Check.

    4. At T-1, release grounding tether.

    5. At T-0, release both tether #1 and tether #2.

    Check.

    What went wrong?

    Actually, it simply lost it's moorings in high winds. Why it was being inflated in high, or even moderate winds is the real question. As any pilot of a hot-air balloon can tell you, that's a recipe for disaster.

    This past summer, while speaking to the Chief Balloon Pilot of the Colorado Springs Balloon Festival (red jacket, cowboy hat) who's duties include making the go/no-go decision based on various weather inputs (they no-go'd this year), I learned that your average hot-air balloon can easily drag the full-sized van to which it is moored half way across a field. That pilot, the same one to whom I was talking, learned a hard lesson that day many years ago. He finally had enough sense to deflate the balloon.

    Perhaps NASA should hire that individual to perform the weather go/no-go decision, at least with respect to ground launch conditions.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by mugaliens View Post
    Why it was being inflated in high, or even moderate winds is the real question.
    Yes - you're 100% right. They went outside, saw the winds were high and thought "You know what guys - now's the time to inflate the balloon" and of course, the very last thing they would do is employ the abilities of a superb meterologist to give them a go/no go for inflation



    CLEARLY they would only have begun inflation if the observed and forecast conditions were go. As the news report clearly states - this wind was sudden. The very fact that they were inflating dictates it was unexpected ( or they WOULD NOT have been inflating ). What sort of idiots do you think these guys are, exactly?

    The team who do these flights have had many many successful flights. Your perfect hindsight combined with modern weather fore-castings lack of psychic powers are frankly, hard to take seriously.

  4. #4
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    DJ: "Yes - you're 100% right. They went outside, saw the winds were high and thought "You know what guys - now's the time to inflate the balloon" and of course, the very last thing they would do is employ the abilities of a superb meterologist to give them a go/no go for inflation..."

    Facetious response noted. Rational intention behind such response remains at large.

    CLEARLY they would only have begun inflation if the observed and forecast conditions were go. As the news report clearly states - this wind was sudden. The very fact that they were inflating dictates it was unexpected ( or they WOULD NOT have been inflating ). What sort of idiots do you think these guys are, exactly?
    Uh, one's who would risk launching a multi-million dollar experiment from an area known to have occasional periods of forecast 0/0 winds with occasional gusts to 30 kts.

    The team who do these flights have had many many successful flights. Your perfect hindsight combined with modern weather fore-castings lack of psychic powers are frankly, hard to take seriously.
    Lol, with several thousand hours of military flying under my belt, including several hundred combat hours, I find your insinuations rather childish.

    What? Nothing more substantial? Have you ever even been in any vehicle designed to convey mankind from the face of Earth? I'm not talking about museum pieces.

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    Well, I must say the shot of the balloon coming down at 1:41 is exquisite, almost liquid looking.

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    ravens_cry: "Well, I must say the shot of the balloon coming down at 1:41 is exquisite, almost liquid looking."

    That was rather intriguing, wasn't it?

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    Quote Originally Posted by mugaliens View Post
    ravens_cry: "Well, I must say the shot of the balloon coming down at 1:41 is exquisite, almost liquid looking."

    That was rather intriguing, wasn't it?
    it looked very pretty coming down like that. very fluid like and graceful. i wonder what physical mechanics lies behind this behavior in solid thin membranous materials. I've seen this tendency with very thin materials before as they are dropped from a height.

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    Of course almost no mention by the media of the highly successful flight a few days previously.

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    Keep this video in mind when the conversation eventually comes back to launching rockets from balloons as in this current thread. Launching very large balloons is harder than it looks and it'd take an extremely large balloon to lift a rocket powerful enough to achieve orbit. It's one thing to lift a sounding rocket to high altitude with a balloon because all you're going for is altitude, but there's a reason why no one tries the technique for lifting orbital boosters.
    Last edited by Larry Jacks; 2010-Apr-30 at 01:57 PM. Reason: add link

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    Quote Originally Posted by Antice View Post
    it looked very pretty coming down like that. very fluid like and graceful. i wonder what physical mechanics lies behind this behavior in solid thin membranous materials. I've seen this tendency with very thin materials before as they are dropped from a height.
    We switched from parachutes to streamers when our modified model rockets become more and more powerful. Of course we'd have to run and catch it before landing or we'd stand a good chance of busting a fin.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Jacks View Post
    Keep this video in mind when the conversation eventually comes back to launching rockets from balloons as in this current thread. Launching very large balloons is harder than it looks and it'd take an extremely large balloon to lift a rocket powerful enough to achieve orbit. It's one thing to lift a sounding rocket to high altitude with a balloon because all you're going for is altitude, but there's a reason why no one tries the technique for lifting orbital boosters.
    Divide four million pounds by the weight of the telescope to determine how many such balloons it would require to lift it.

    Also, the cost figure is now out: $2 million.

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    Balloons are aircraft. Public perception (even mine, earlier!) may see them as gentle floating wisps of cloth with a bit of stuff underneath, but in reality there is quite a bit of mass there. Unexpected gusts of wind, even small ones, can give that amount of mass quite a bit of kinetic energy. There is a lot of balloon for small gusts of wind to work on... Having witnessed a hot-air balloon with passengers being drug into a crowd of spectators in calm conditions (no injuries except a few bruises, but some severe bending in strong metal fences), it is my understanding that such gusts, or gustlets, of wind cannot always be detected, predicted, or anticipated quickly enough to act.

    The people watching roughly downwind reminded me of those people you see in Funniest Homevideos, trying to stop, by pushing, to a car gliding down an icy bit of road. Instinct may tell it's the thing to do, but instinct may rely on misjudged parameters. A balloon isn't a fluffy bit of cloth with some air, it's an aircraft with a basket containing several hundreds kilos of mass (people, burners, gas containers, ballast).
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by slang View Post
    A balloon isn't a fluffy bit of cloth with some air, it's an aircraft with a basket containing several hundreds kilos of mass (people, burners, gas containers, ballast).
    Not to mention the mass of the hot air, helium, or hydrogen, which, depending on which, is a few times the mass of the payload to many times the mass of the payload.

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