Balloon Flight and the ULDB Pumpkin Balloon Development
The NASA Ultra Long Duration Balloon (ULDB) program has had many technical development issues discovered and solved along its road to success as a new vehicle. It has the promise of being a sub-satellite, a means to launch up to 2700 kg to 33.5 km altitude for 100 days from a comfortable mid-latitude launch point. Current high-lift long duration ballooning is accomplished out of Antarctica with zero-pressure balloons, which cannot cope with the rigors of diurnal cycles. The ULDB design is still evolving, the product of intense analytical effort, scaled testing, improved manufacturing, and engineering intuition. The past technical problems, in particular the s-cleft deformation, their solutions, future challenges, and the methodology of pumpkin balloon design will generally be described.
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