In January 2005, we are
launching two balloon payloads from Churchill, Manitoba. Each 60 lb payload will be carried to an altitude of
120,000 feet on a 300,000 cubic foot balloon. Four similar payloads will be simultaneously launched by our
collaborators at U. C. Berkeley from the South African Antarctic Station (SANAE). These flights will provide us
with the first conjugate measurements of relativistic electron precipitation from a balloon. Stay tuned for
progress on the campaign! (Right: Launch of MINIS test balloon at McMurdo Station, Antarctica)
The MINIS project is an effort to understand the size, frequency and mechanisms of relativistic electron
precipitation from the magnetosphere into the ionosphere. It is the next step in an ongoing effort. The MINIS
approach differs in emphasis and method from its predecessor experiment (MAXIS). A different instrument package,
which includes electric and magnetic field sensors, will look for electromagnetic indications of magnetospheric
waves which might be responsible for scattering relativistic electron out of their repetitive motions in the
magnetosphere and down into Earth's atmosphere. The MINIS campaign will employ 4 balloons with staggered launches
in order to extend the longitudinal range over which relativistic electron precipitation is observed. These
balloons will be hand-launched by graduate students from the South African Antarctic station, SANAE, in January
2005. University of Washington is contributing electric field instrument components (Bob Holzworth and Michael
Kokorowski) and x-ray spectrometers (Michael McCarthy and Erin Lay) to the balloon payloads. Michael Kokorowski
will also travel to SANAE to launch the balloons.
See balloon trajectory maps and data here.
Churchill's final balloon was released at approximately 01:40 UTC. The balloon reached float as predicted in two
hours, and moved a little slower than the first balloon. The balloon continued easterly until we terminated the
flight off the eastern coast of Iceland. The balloon transmitted data until landing in the ocean.
SANAE launched their third and fourth balloons this week.
Congratulations to both SANAE and the Churchill team for the successful launch of SIX balloons in two weeks!
At approximately 08:54 UTC, our first Churchill balloon was released. The payload reached float in a little over
two hours after launch, and ended up floating over Greenland when we cut it down. It continued to send us data
from atop the Greenland Ice Cap until the batteries died.
At approximately 13:00 UTC the second SANAE balloon was launched. The payload reached float in just over two
hours. Great data is beginning to come in. Congratulations to the hard working people down in Antarctica for a
The SANAE balloon launched at approximately 14:00 UTC. The payload reached altitude in just over one hour. After
that, the balloon proceeded to come back down over the course of several hours. The mechanism that brought the
balloon down is still unknown.
Our first flight, which was set to occur on January 8th has been delayed due to poor weather in both Antarctica
and here in Churchill. We are anticipating a launch on January 17th, provided the weather in both poles is flight
worthy. We have completed one payload, and are busy finishing our second payload while we wait out the blizzard
that has moved in at both Churchill and SANAE.
Members from our team are just arriving at the Churchill Northern
Studies Center. Our southern hemisphere collaborators arrived at SANAE last week and are busily preparing for a January 8th launch.