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China launches rocket from hot air balloon

Chinese scientists successfully test-fired a rocket from a balloon in the air, a technology that saves fuel to send the device into space.

Using balloons to launch rockets will significantly save fuel.  Photo:

Using balloons to launch rockets will significantly save fuel. Image:

First, the rocket was carried to the upper atmosphere by a large helium balloon from Lenghu in northwest China’s Qinghai province on April 24. When the balloon reaches a preset altitude, the rocket is activated via a ground-based remote control. The test is the result of a collaboration between the Institute of Atmospheric Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Beijing-based Hengjian Tianhang Space Technology Co.

“The test marks the world’s first major technological breakthrough for this type of rocket launch,” said Zhang Yichi, general manager of Hengjian Tianhang Co., Ltd.

Such rockets could carry scientific equipment to measure conditions in atmospheric research, Earth observation and many other applications. Compared with conventional ground-launched rockets, the balloon method uses much less fuel, is cheaper and more efficient. The method can be widely used to explore an area 20-100 feet above the ground, too high for aircraft and too low for satellites.

Launching rockets from balloons was introduced in the 1950s. American scientist James Van Allen was the first to develop this idea and use it to study the Earth’s magnetosphere. An unnamed researcher from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, said the balloon used in the April 24 test was a high-altitude non-pressurized balloon, made of very thin plastic and contained small amounts of helium. The higher the altitude, the lower the atmospheric pressure decreases, the helium gas expands to fill the volume of the balloon. This helps the balloon reach the desired height and hover there before the rocket takes off. Such helium balloons usually fly to 25-40 km above the ground while rockets can fly to an altitude of 70 km or more.

Helium balloons have many potential applications at different altitudes, but also come with technical challenges including manufacturing a large airship, controlling its position and altitude, and even accurately predicting wind direction. . The test took place in Lanh Ho, an area with Mars-like terrain and good conditions for astronomical observations.

An Khang (According to SCMP)

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