News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Data from balloon launch under analysis

High-altitude balloons lofted into night sky above Sisters Eagle Airport last month as the airport once again hosted the science team from the University of Washington’s Space and Earth Science department led by Associate Professor Michael McCarthy.

For the June 2021 launch program, three balloons were sent aloft at night during the week of June 20. The first launch took place at 11 p.m. on June 22, followed by a launch on June 24-25 between 10 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.

Launch operations were performed by ISTAR (International Science Technology And Research of Sisters). The ISTAR team launch effort was orchestrated by Steven Peterzén , President of ISTAR, Francie Peterzén, Rima Givot, Teri Ast, Rod Moorehead, Chris McDougall, and Rod Gunson, all of Sisters, along with Kyle Peterzén of Albany.

All three balloons climbed out easterly turning to the west before reaching a float altitude of 39 km (127,953 feet). The balloons performed perfectly and stayed at the desired altitude for more than four days, with the termination of the flight along the coast of Unalaska Island in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, where recovery operations took place. Data analysis is now being examined.

Todd Anderson, researcher with the University of Washington Space and Earth Sciences explained, “The science experiment is measuring the electrical properties of the atmosphere or the electrical current flowing between the upper atmosphere and the earth. Measuring the current is best done far from pollutants and weather effects that are near the Earth’s surface so we make use of high altitude balloons. By measuring the electric current at high altitudes and simultaneously monitoring thunderstorm activity with a global lightning network, we can get this measurement with higher accuracy than previous work.”

The next campaign for ISTAR will be a series of balloon launches on a DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) contract from Maui, Hawaii.


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