Canada-France space agencies test stratosphere balloon in Ontario

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the French space agency, the Centre national d’études spatiales (CNES), completed their maiden stratospheric research balloon flight from Timmins, Ontario today. It was the first flight to take place under a France-Canada agreement signed in September 2012. A remotely controlled atmospheric balloon, capable of carrying up to 1.75 tons of equipment into the stratosphere, completed a ten-hour flight at 6:40 this morning. The balloons, which require no engine or fuel to reach altitudes of up to 42 kilometres, are fully recoverable after flight.

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Inflation of the first stratospheric balloon launched from Timmins, Ontario. The launch was done under an agreement between the Canadian Space Agency and the Centre national d’etudes spatiales of France.

This flight was intended to test the CNES’ most recent stratospheric balloon technology, according to a release.

“This collaborative effort between France and Canada will provide a new, inexpensive platform for scientists to test technologies in a near-space environment,” said the Honourable James Moore, Minister of Industry, and responsible for the CSA. “The stratospheric balloon project allows for faster launch capability and is an environmentally responsible tool for scientific research and technology development.”

The balloons provide a platform for collecting data on the Earth’s environment and atmosphere, as well as for looking outward into space for astronomy research.

The president of the CSA, Walter Natynczyk, said that the Franco-Canadian collaboration would provide frequent opportunities for Canada’s engineering and scientific communities. The agency looks forward to receiving payload proposals from research scientists and engineers for future stratospheric missions, which will become “frequent” in 2014.

In the current round of test flights, a Montreal firm, Xiphos, will be testing miniaturized data-processing technology. The company hopes to certify this technology for space and sub-orbital missions.

A second test flight is scheduled in coming days. For this launch, the CNES will use its largest stratospheric balloon, which is nearly 324 metres in length, equal to the height of the Eiffel Tower.

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