Figure 1. Flight Preparation
The Balloon Program Office (BPO) is celebrating the successful conclusion of the Fall 2014 Ft. Sumner Campaign with the launch of the Wallops Arc-Second Pointer (WASP)/Observatory for Planetary Investigations from the Stratosphere (OPIS) mission on October 8, 2014. The final mission paired the Wallops-built WASP, capable of highly precise pointing to the sub-arc-second level, with the OPIS instrument, built at Goddard Spaceflight Center's Greenbelt campus.
"High-altitude balloons offer us a unique, low-cost platform to carry out our planetary observations," said Terry Hurford, principal investigator for OPIS, during an interview earlier in 2014. WASP/OPIS "provides us with a unique opportunity to build a capability that we can leverage for future opportunities."
The WASP/OPIS team was flight ready and waiting for weather - including an intense hailstorm with whiteout, high winds, and horizontally-blown hailstones at least 0.5 inches in diameter - to allow for a safe launch. That opportunity came the morning of October 8, 2014 and the launch was executed at 10:02 EDT. The mission reached 105,000 feet and lasted 11 hours 2 minutes. The WASP and OPIS teams reported that they met all their success criteria. All Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility (CSBF) operational systems functioned properly.
The CSBF team will spend the next several days closing and safing the Ft. Sumner facilities and equipment before returning to Palestine, Texas - just in time to prepare for the upcoming Antarctic Campaign. BPO and science teams will be traveling to McMurdo Station throughout October and November preparing for the first launch of that campaign in early December.
Figure 2. WASP/OPIS
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