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Stratospheric balloons

A reliable tool serving the scientific community

The stratosphere is too low to operate orbiting satellites, and sounding rockets traverse it too quickly to obtain meaningful data. But balloons—or lighter-than-air vehicles to use the scientific term—can stay aloft in this middle region of the atmosphere that extends through an altitude range between 12 and 45 km.

That is why they are a unique tool for scientific research, and why CNES has always sustained a keen interest in balloon activities.
Theseo balloon campaign in Kiruna (Sweden) in 1999 ; credits CNES/P.Le Doaré

Theseo balloon campaign in Kiruna (Sweden) in 1999 ; credits CNES/P.Le Doaré

CNES has built up its balloon activities in the last 40 years and today its balloon programme ranks second only to the United States. The agency has earned worldwide recognition for its expertise in the design, construction, launch and operation of lighter-than-air vehicles.



Stratospheric balloons
Origin Activity initiated by the French scientific research centre CNRS and CNES for the astronomy and atmospheric research communities
Objectives Science (astronomy, atmospheric and environmental research) and technology
1st flight 24 May 1972
Demand for balloon flights Comes from science and industry


Last updated: August 2009

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