The "Apollo 19 Balloon" envelope
is in fact a giant bag made of very light, fragile, diaphanous
polyethylene. Such a balloon is filled partially with helium and is
subsequently launched in a particular way. Such an envelope can only be
For almost two years Fons has done a thorough
investigation into the techniques, which could make possible the
construction of a gigantic 500,000-m³ balloon. Primarily it was
necessary to find polyethylene with excellent mechanical and thermal
properties. Finding such a film proved to be difficult since
'brittleness point' is also a very important parameter.
polyethylene film producer and a Holland located division of an
American supplier of raw material succeeded in producing the right
special film. Almost 40,000 m² meters were extruded under tight
control. The film proved to be three times stronger then other films.
The execution of innumerable glue tests and the construction of several
test balloons led to good results.
The material used to weave
the important envelope gores was supplied by the Dutch DSM High
Performance Fibers Company. This firm produces 'Dyneema', the strongest
fiber in the world. The fiber is very, very strong and has enormous
thermal properties since there is no brittleness point found as low as
-150°C. The free breaking length of the fiber is no less than 330 km.
Dyneema would in theory reach to a satellite's orbit!
built an apparatus to test the permeability of the folia for helium.
Putting together the strokes of polyethylene gave the most problems
with great dimensions. It had to be done very carefully because the
sealing must not contain enclosed air-bubbles.
|Construction "Apollo 19" test envelopes|
balloon is fitted with a valve, which enables the escape of helium.
This makes it possible to land in a controlled manner. At take-off, the
bag will be filled with approximately 1,700 m³ of helium.
launching of a "scientific balloon", such as the "Apollo 19 Balloon"
can in no way be compared with the ascent of a classic hot-air balloon.
Launch preparations 'research balloon'
balloonists are also unable to take part in the launch because they
have to take their place in the gondola at an early stage. The laying
of the "envelope" with great care at the "launch site", the filling of
the balloon with helium gas, the control of all connections, and the
releasing of the balloon and gondola, has to be executed by a "special