Balloon launch delayed by weather

Nasa has postponed the scheduled launch of its super pressure balloon from Wanaka this morning owing to unfavourable weather conditions.

Preparations were due to begin early today, with a lift-off scheduled between 8am and 11.30am.

However, Nasa has advised that while ground and lower-level winds were conducive for launch this morning, winds in the stratosphere were not.

A counter-clockwise flowing eddy has developed to the west of the North Island. Forecast models had the balloon launching from Wanaka then travelling north bisecting the South Island before eventually getting caught up in the light and variable winds of the eddy. Ideally, an eastward trajectory after lift-off is preferred, though not necessarily required.

“Had the forecast stratospheric models pushed the balloon further west—not unlike what we saw in our 2016 launch—we would have seriously considered moving forward with our launch attempt,” said Gabe Garde, NASA’s mission manager for the balloon launch.

“Unfortunately, there’s too much uncertainty in the final trajectory forecast given the nearby eddy pattern in the stratosphere. More opportunities will present themselves as we continue to move forward in the campaign.”

A decision will be made later today about another attempt this weekend.

Plans are for the 532,000cum balloon to climb  to an altitude of 33.5km on what could be a  100-day journey.

Nasa estimates it  will circle the southern hemisphere’s mid-latitudes once every one to three weeks, depending on wind speeds.

The launch is expected to have  minimal impact on scheduled aircraft operations in the Lakes area. 

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