What is a high altitude balloon? (Part 1)

High Altitude Balloons (HABs) are manned or unmanned balloons that are used to carry payloads into the stratosphere.  HABs are capable of reaching altitudes of 18-53 km (11-32 mi)  above sea level.  HABs are filled with lighter than air gas.  It is this gas, that gives them their lift.  Once filled, the HAB is released, and it then ascends for 1-3 hours.  As the HAB ascends and altitude increases, the air pressure outside the balloon drops, while the pressure of the lifting gas inside the balloon remains constant.  This causes the balloon to slowly grow in size as the gas attempts to escape.  Eventually, the force on the balloon causes it to burst.  For the next few hours, the payload falls, slowed by it’s parachute.  The HAB is tracked throughout it’s flight.  After it lands it is recovered.

HAB launches fall into two main groups: First are research balloons. Used in weather, atmospheric and climate research.  They are also used to collect data and imagery from near space.   HABs are also launched by hobbyists for educational or scientific purposes.

Part 2 here.

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