A few months ago, we got a unique opportunity. We were invited to travel to Kennedy Space Center to conduct a balloon flight right from Runway 33, the iconic landing strip where the space shuttles returned to Earth after their journeys into space.
The home of NASA’s launch operations since the 1960s, Kennedy Space Center is Mecca to engineers, astronomy fans and space enthusiasts the world over, so a chance to conduct a launch right from the heart of US space launches was just something we couldn’t miss. Watch the video below and keep scrolling for the full story behind the launch.
Although this launch was an incredible opportunity, there were a number of challenges in our way, not least of which was a global pandemic. We worked directly with Space Florida to secure a special exemption from travel restrictions as our project was in the interests of the nation and its economy—which is always nice to be told!
Launching from Runway 33 was another slightly intimidating challenge. We were able to book out the entire runway for several days, but we had far less flexibility than we usually seek for our flight window. In the weeks running up to our trip, we were anxiously monitoring long-term forecasts, which showed storm after storm with only a couple of shifting times when it might be safe to launch.
Bringing a range of parachute and balloon variants with us allowed us to adjust our flight paths, but we wanted to avoid the dreaded low pressure pocket that might cause our balloon to reach neutral buoyancy before it reached burst diameter and float for many hundreds of miles. Our recovery boat could only go so far out to sea!
What can you see from Kennedy Space Center’s Runway 33?
The runway itself is a phenomenal sight. One of the longest runways in the world, the Shuttle Landing Facility is over 4.6km long. What we didn’t know until we arrived is that from the runway, you can see used rockets from NASA and SpaceX just hanging out.
It makes for a stunning view and a great look at the history and present of outer space flight. Over the course of our trip, we met and conversed with several NASA and SpaceX engineers, who were as fascinated by our work as we were by theirs.
In our decade of launching we’ve learned to launch in many less-than-ideal launch situations and we were incredibly happy with the results we achieved on our trip. However, there’s one thing that no amount of preparation or practice can prevent, and that’s seasickness.
If you take a close look at the recovery portion of the video, you’ll notice that Dr Chris Rose features only briefly and his smile is closer to a grimace. Poor Chris suffers severe seasickness, which makes his willingness to brave stormy seas for our recovery all the more impressive. Thankfully, we managed to find a launch window with clear skies and calm waters and the footage is simply spectacular.
Subscribe to our YouTube channel to see more footage from this trip as we go onwards, as well as our many other incredible flights.
Even with lockdown in place, we’re still busy with launches, so if you’re wondering whether a space launch is viable for your creative or commercial project right now, get in touch with our team today to discuss what we can do for you.