Scientific observation balloons have been used in space and earth observation as the only flight vehicle that can stay for extended periods in an altitudinal region higher than aircrafts reach and lower than satellites. Balloons play an important role in scientific observation and engineering experiments.
In Japan, the Sanriku Balloon Center (Sanriku-cho, Ohfunato City) has launched about 10 balloons annually, which adds up to more than 400 balloons since its foundation in 1971.
The Balloon Center will move to Taiki-cho, Hokkaido, in April 2008.
Balloons are used for scientific observation in many fields including cosmic-ray physics, infrared astronomy, high-energy space physics, upper-atmospheric physics and space biology. Engineering experiments on new space transportation and exploration technologies are also conducted using balloons.
Research and technical development of next-generation balloons are being carried out for future scientific-observation and space-engineering experiments.
Development of Balloons
New balloons are being developed to broaden the range of possibilities for balloon experiments. Development is focused on thin-film high-altitude balloons for higher altitude flights and super-pressure balloons for longer duration flights.
- Development of Thin-film High-altitude Balloon
- Development of Super-pressure Balloon
Recent Experiments (Domestic)
- Astronomical observation by the hard X-ray polarimeter PHENEX
- Exploration of celestial bodies in MeV-region gamma ray using the MeV wide-angle view gamma camera
- Verification of the CALET prototype detector and observations of electron beams and gamma rays
- Observation of stratospheric atmosphere by a cryogenic sampler
- Observation of atmospheric trace elements by BSMILES
- Observation of upper atmospheric lightning
- Deployment test of solar sail films
- Development of microgravity experiment instruments using high-altitude balloons
- Study of soft reentry vehicle