Thursday, March 7, 2013

Could orbiting platforms retrieve high-altitude balloons?

Hi, everyone:

Of course, by now you're all starting to realize that I'm really a total geek. For me, spaceships, fantasy creatures and all things sci-fi are the rage. My wife says she has a hard time getting me to watch anything that doesn't involve either aliens or explosions, preferably both :-)

I just read this great article at about how it is becoming cheap and easy to use near-space, high-altitude balloons. I wonder if it would be possible for an orbiting platform to retrieve those balloon payloads? Or is the distance still too great? Or maybe lowing a line closer to Earth's gravitational field and atmospheric friction would make that impossible. It would be great if this could this lead to a cheaper way to get payloads into space.

It looks like the International Space Station is about 175 to 200 miles above Earth. The lowest sustainable orbit (because of drag, apparently) is about 93 miles above Earth. A near-space balloon can reach about 24 miles above Earth, which is past 99% of Earth's atmosphere. The question is, can we somehow bridge the 69-mile distance between the lowest orit and the highest balloon more affordably than we can launch a full rocket into space?

'Hope someone has the answer and will email me back :-)

The Pheesching Sector

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