ESRL Global Systems Division

GAINS Instrumentation Tested

Many activities are underway at NOAA's Forecast Systems Laboratory (FSL) to improve observation systems and enhance the accuracy of numerical models. One such program is the Global Air-ocean IN-situ System (GAINS), planned as a cooperative effort with many other nations around the world. GAINS is conceived as a network of hundreds of solar-powered balloons and remotely operated aircraft to systematically collect time-critical, in situ data for climate change and prediction studies over oceanic regions.

The instrumented platforms will be regularly distributed over the global lower stratosphere, each delivering a complement of environmental sondes for atmospheric, oceanic, and air chemistry measurements. Each GAINS vehicle will carry a set of instruments for location, communication, command, and control. These include GPS units, line-of-site and over-the-horizon communications, pump, helium and air vents, and balloon termination controls, all of which require rigorous testing and evaluation. Early Sunday March 30, an advanced concept of a turbine pump for GAINS was tested at an altitude of 50,000 feet above the Colorado plains. The GAINS pump and experimental payload were launched from Meadow Lake Airport east of Colorado Springs, CO, and carried into the stratosphere by a 19,000-cubic-foot helium balloon. At the test altitude, the turbine pump reached a sustained speed of 37,000 revolutions per minute and inflated an 8-foot-diameter balloon to a positive superpressure of 5 millibars using ambient air. The inflation was viewed in real time by onboard television and monitored by telemetry data. Data analysis is ongoing. The balloon and payload ascended at a rate of 950 feet per minute and reached an altitude of 80,000 feet. Upon command from the ground, the payload was cut away and descended at about 1,360 feet per minute, slowed by a parachute. The payload was recovered in working condition with no damage about 85 miles from the launch site. More data and information with pictures of the launch and recovery operations are available at

Data from the GAINS balloon network will provide a vast array of observations that will enhance understanding of ocean and atmospheric processes and their interaction. See the GAINS home page for more information.

Contact information
Name: Russell B Chadwick
Tel: 303-497-6318