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Weather dashes balloon launch hopes

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 16/04/2017

NASA's fifth attempt to launch a stadium-sized balloon on a record-setting 100-day test flight from Wanaka has been foiled by uncooperative wind.

The space agency's efforts to send up the "super pressure balloon" have been repeatedly hampered by the weather this year and it has signalled the balloon launch several times only to hold off.

It was hoping to find a gap between 8am and 11.30am on Easter Monday but now says the wind was blowing in the wrong direction.

However, the attempt was the closest so far, campaign mission manager Gabe Garde said.

"We took the payload out to the flightline, connected the parachute to the payload, and laid out part of the protective tarp for this attempt," he said.

"We were as close as we've ever been in this campaign for launching, but the wind direction simply wouldn't support taking the next steps of bringing the balloon out and beginning inflation operations."

The agency will now be monitoring the weather daily to find a new launch window.

The super pressure balloon is about the size of the Forsyth-Barr Stadium in Dunedin when fully inflated and NASA hopes it'll stay in the air for 100 days.

The current record flight for such balloons is 54 days.

A special launch pad has been built at Wanaka Airport for the launch.

It's the third year NASA has been in Wanaka to launch a balloon. The first balloon in 2015 achieved 32 days of flight, with 46 days notched up in 2016.

The University of Chicago has an extreme universe space observatory being tested on this year's flight.

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