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Dec 10 2014

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The advantages of balloons over suborbital rockets

There seems to be a revolution brewing in the high-altitude balloon industry. I admit that I don’t pay close enough attention to this, ’cause riding a high-altitude balloon ain’t going to get me to space. Still, balloons are becoming more and more important to the suborbital science market, so here ya go.

The article lists the following advantages of high-altitude balloons over suborbital rockets:

  • Gentler rides, so that payloads do not have to be designed and tested to withstand sustained high acceleration g-forces during launch and entry, simplifying development and test challenges, and therefore also lowering costs for payloads and payload specialists.
  • Longer flight durations of hours (and even days) at altitude on balloons, versus the minutes at altitude that currently envisioned next-generation suborbital rocket systems offer.
  • Lower altitudes where both research and commercial applications can achieve higher ground resolutions, e.g., which are better suited to research in the crucial research altitude regimes of the stratosphere.
  • Greater range over the Earth than rockets, which plan to fly back to their launch site and can’t traverse significant ground, air, and space paths for REM applications.
  • An absence of zero-g, which in many cases creates unwanted REM payload design and operational complexities; avoiding zero-g simplifies development and test and typically lowers the cost to fly both payloads and payload specialists.
  • A lower cost of flight, which expands markets and widens opportunities for frequency of flight.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2014/12/10/the-advantages-of-balloons-over-suborbital-rockets/

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