NASA Barrel Balloons

While being here and having fun is a realisation of my life long dream, the main reason Halley Station exists is to do some Very Important Science.

One of the projects that’s currently running at Halley is the Barrel project. BARREL is a very fancy acronym for Balloon Array for Radiation-belt Relativistic Electron Losses, which is a project funded by NASA and which is running out of Halley VI and also the South African Antarctic Station SANAE IV.


The idea of the project is to launch 20 helium filled balloons, each carrying a 20kg payload to an altitude of about 30-35km. Each payload essentially consists of an x-ray radiation sensor and a magnetometer as scientific instruments, solar panels and an onboard battery for power, a bunch of sensors to monitor the operation of the payload, a GPS receiver to track the position and altitude of the balloon and an Iridium modem to transmit all data back to the scientists. 


Preparing the Payload

preparing the payload


Filling the balloon

filling the balloon


We all get to participate in launching these balloons and, while it’s all very serious and is done as part of Very Important Science, it’s also great fun. And when the weather plays ball, it’s also a great photo opportunity. 


Mkrzysztofowicz 20131231 114239 Halley VI

Christoph filling the balloon



Stewie and Jimmi about to release the balloon


And if all this was not enough fun, one of my pictures from the balloon launch was featured on the NASA website to illustrate an article about the project! 

And away she goes!

And away she goes!

12 thoughts on “NASA Barrel Balloons

  1. No piękny balonik, tyle, że ten hel wypelniający balon już jest nie do odzyskania (bo na ziemi nie powstaje hel).
    Szkoda, że nikt Ci nie zrobił zdjęcia podczas Twoich prac przy wypuszczaniu balonu.
    Ale aparatura doczepiona do balonu – interesująca… szkoda, że do Polski nie doleci, bo warto by zdobyć takie przyrządy.

  2. Brilliant photos, Mike. Congrats on the NASA publishing!

    Must be amazing to know that all this sort of stuff awaits you each morning. Keep the photos and details going, they’re really cool reading 🙂

    Got any ‘favourite’ experiments which are going on down there so far?

  3. Hey Mike, great photo!
    Looks like your having a great time, you seem as high as the balloons!
    John I

    • Hey Morgan,

      I wish I could. The NASA people came here with a fuck load of Helium. Each balloon launch uses 8 full J’s of He, and they have a goal of launching at least 10 balloons from our station this summer (but in fact have 12-13 in total, so there might be more launches).

      It’s all done for Fucking Important Science, but it pains me nevertheless to see all this Helium going to waste… 😉

    • Hey Yohan,


      No astro photography yet as it’s daylight 24 hours a day. It’s austral summer now and we’re well south of the South Polar Circle.

      I’ll see if I can get into astro photography in winter time. We have at least two telescopes here, but not sure if I can rig my camera to any of them.

      Take care,

  4. Hey Mike,
    We all know that there is a day for all the time, but we are missing stories from You. Come on ! 🙂
    Show us a Halley inside please….

  5. Hey Mike.
    Glad you made it there safe and sound. The kids were a bit worried as they had seen on the news a ship that had got stuck in the ice over christmas.
    Really enjoying your blog but as you said yourself a picture says a thousand words. The ice bergs and the ice shelf look class. Also great to see the pictures of the station and the science projects that are going on. The pics really help the girls get a better idea what your up to. Keep up the good work and we look forward to future updated.
    Mark Lesley and kids.

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  7. Hey Mike,
    Wow !, Great to read. Hope all going well, sounds amazing.
    Fabuous photos as I would only expect from your good self… No under water shots as yet that I see 🙂

    Keep it coming.

    Sean C . . .

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