There will be yet another UFO in the heavens, but this one can be explained. Britain’s Big Space Balloon, designed by Rich Curtis, will be the biggest research balloon of its kind, designed to move higher into the Earth’s atmosphere and space, and provide more information than any other balloon so far. Rising to an altitude of somewhere around 130,000 feet, the balloon will be designed to provide experimentation on climate change and other space related sciences.
Curtis, who has a background in construction, and the consultanting engineer, John Ackroyd, both have a history with building. Ackroyd worked on the round the world “Endeavour” project, designing a pressurized crew capsule. For Curtis, the goal is to provide the U.K. with an affordable way to further research and technology.
This super balloon, made of recycled polythene, is durable and is expected to be capable of maintaining flight for several days. It can also be reused for several flight missions, making it even more economical. Using solar photovoltaic cell printing, with solar cells that are printed into the actual fabric, the balloon will also become a power generator, capable of producing around 100 kwh of power, which would be enough to power the International Space Station, and would be capable of powering other space facilities in the future. Yet another possibility for the balloon lies in the field of space debris. Becoming a major issue, this debris can be researched, tracked, and possibly moved out of the way, if necessary, with the use of lasers carried by the balloon.
The balloon will be relatively low cost with most of the 500,000 pounds or so being raised through sponsors that will be able to see their advertisements flying high. The ads will be printed on the side of the science capsule that is attached to the balloon and will be visible through high definition cameras. In fact, anyone can contribute and have their own ad or a photo on the capsule. Photos of their contribution will be transmitted back to a personal blog or any number of social websites.
Future plans for the balloon include using this to survey atmospheric conditions on other planets, and eventually, to carry a manned capsule, that would conceivably provide passengers with a view of the Earth that they might never experience elsewhere. Those working on this project, that is expected to be launched in 2012, are quick to point out that the possible uses for the big balloon are endless. Their goal to provide valuable scientific data at an affordable price seems to be well within reach.