7.6 Development of New Technology to Manufacture Meteorological Balloons

Tuesday, 12 January 2016: 4:45 PM
Room 350/351 ( New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center)
Lakshmi Bhukta, Space Data Corporation, Chandler, AZ; and G. M. Knoblach

Upper air soundings through the use of meteorological balloons remain one of the most important inputs to weather forecasts. Seemingly the simplest, yet the most critical component in the upper air network is the meteorological balloon that carry radiosondes through extreme temperature variations, wind shears, and all types of precipitation from the ground to altitudes over 26 km. For over a decade, Space Data has manufactured and flown tens of thousands of balloons designed to keep a large, 6-kilogram payloads at a height of 25 to 30 km for 12 to 72 hours as a platform for wireless communications networks. Through this experience a new manufacturing method different from the established mandrel-dipping and rotational molding was invented. New novel elastomer chemistries have also been developed.

A new natural latex meteorological balloon using this new molding process for upper air soundings to 26 km has been introduced to the market. This high modulus balloon shows good margin in a wide variety of environmental conditions as shown by the flight test results presented. A second novel natural latex chemistry has been developed that shows much higher elongations than traditional natural latex elastomers. This offers the potential to materially reduce the balloon mass required to lift next-generation, low-mass radiosondes to altitude. This development may reduce the lifting gas required per launch and thus reduce costs in areas where hydrogen use is restricted and helium costs are high. The resulting lifting gas cost savings may allow meteorological agencies to afford increased upper air flight tempo thereby improving forecast accuracies.

- Indicates paper has been withdrawn from meeting
- Indicates an Award Winner