Astronomy

The Significance of Britains Big Space Balloon



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Britain’s Big Space Balloon is a huge high altitude research balloon, intended to explore the highest areas of the atmosphere. The super pressured balloon will fly up to 130,000 feet, above the Earth, in the stratosphere carrying climate change and earth science experiments. The project’s aim is to provide an inexpensive platform for research and development in near space for United Kingdom companies and the British Space industry. It may be a surprise to some people that the United Kingdom has a thriving space industry.

The British Space Agency has not initiated this project. Its impetus, thinking, and organization, comes from a small company in the Isle of Wight, in the Solent, off England’s south coast. The project’s funding is rather revolutionary, companies and individuals will sponsor the mission. People can sponsor the balloon for as little as ten pounds, and have advertising on the balloon’s website and capsule. High definition cameras rigged outside the capsule will transmit still and video photographs of the advertising on the capsule to Earth.

The balloon and its capsule, due to be launched in summer or autumn 2012, is a revolutionary design and it is indeed big. The balloon’s envelope will be 100 metres, or just over 328 feet, in diameter and will use a super pressure design, enabling flight for several days. The company aims to use recycled lightweight polythene to make the balloon’s envelope and the latest composite materials making the capsule strong, durable, and reusable. The Big Space Balloon is intended to herald a host of similar missions using and promoting, especially Britain’s, high tech industries and encouraging them to work together to achieve great things.

United Kingdom companies will provide the electronic communications and control equipment. UK universities and companies will collaborate with the company in developing the experiments carried on the balloon. Innovative photovoltaic cell printing technology will turn the balloon into a huge power station, using solar energy. Cells printed directly onto the balloon enable the vehicle to produce its own electricity. The balloon’s enormous 20,000 metres or 65 616.79 feet envelope generating sufficient power to run the International Space Station, 100 kilowatts per hour.

One of the restraining factors on space exploration is its huge cost, the balloon’s mission holds great possibilities for space exploration aiming to demonstrate that space exploration need not gobble up resources, but can use low cost solar powered inflatable vehicles. Technology used in this mission is also potentially useful in airborne surveys of other planets, such as Mars and Venus. However, the mission does not only have scientific possibilities and significance. Its funding model is radically different, ten pounds is a relatively small sum meaning that small companies and individuals can take part in, and ownership of, the mission. The Big Space Balloon can effectively be the British people’s balloon.

Governments cannot justify, in hard economic times, spending money on space exploration. The Big Space Balloon’s mission and building brings together high technology companies in the United Kingdom and amply demonstrates that Britain has a space industry. UK companies will, as far as is possible, supply the components and systems used in the balloon’s construction, thus promoting British expertise in such matters. The Balloon’s building and mission will promote British industry. Other countries, especially those with more famous space industries and exploration programmes, and which, incidentally, use British systems and expertise, are scoffing at the Big Space Balloon Perhaps this scoffing is a sign of their fear that it may over-shadow their own, very expensive, space programmes. Balloons have been to the edge of space before and there is no reason why the mission should fail.

However, a successful Big Space Balloon mission will give the British people hope, pride in the UK’s accomplishments, and help revive and promote its manufacturing industry. It may also prove that even a small company, on the Isle of Wight, a small island, in a group of other small islands, can aim for the stars. 

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ARTICLE SOURCES AND CITATIONS
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  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.cosmonline.co.uk/blog/2011/11/07/big-space-balloon
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://hobbyspace.com/nucleus/?itemid=33651
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1318814/Luke-Geissbuhler-son-send-weather-balloon-100-000ft-space-capture-amazing-video-footage.html