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South Pole Ozonesonde Launch

SOUTH POLE, ANTARCTICA– Preparation for an ozonesonde launch takes place in the Balloon Inflation Facility (BIF) and begins about 7-10 days prior to launch day. We open up the styrofoam package which contains a pump, some circuitry, and a battery. There is some important information we need to know about the pump such as the sensor’s response time, and how much air it pumps through it. The flow rate through the pump is probably the most important piece of information because we enter that into a program that calculates the ozone. For example, if there is more air flowing through it, then it is going to measure more ozone so that needs to be taken into account. All the sondes have slightly different flow rates so they all have to be checked. There are various other checks that we run though to make sure that the sonde is up to specs as well on the day of the launch. Some tests are just repeated the day of the launch.

Then we head into the “hangar” to prep the balloon (plastic balloon, in warmer months we use rubber). The balloons are filled with helium and are clipped to a set amount of weight so we know that we will get consistent rise speeds and burst altitudes. Since the plastic balloons don’t expand, most of it left empty so when it get’s to high altitude at low pressure, the helium has space to expand into.

Then after some final preparation of the ozonsonde package which may include some heating elements to keep the pump warm and getting the battery ready, we are ready to launch!

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4 Responses »

  1. Anything I can do as an untrained retiree in Georgia for you? Anything in general—do errands for you while you are “out of town” (I suppose thats what you are?) or anything that could be of assistance. God bless you all. I’ll say a prayer for your safety and that the well being of your loved ones who will be overseen by God’s angels. joej

  2. Hello Nick,
    Just a little background on myself. I have resently returned to New York after 13 months at McMurdo Station as a Heavy Equipment Operator for Raytheon Polar Services. My son’s 12th Grade Science Class (Physics & Earth Science) would like to make contact with someone on the Ice involved in Science. (you if that is possible. I understand the timing involved. Just first, let me know if your still on the Ice at Pole and second, would you be willing to communicate with the class?
    Thank you for all you do,
    David Akin

  3. Hi Joe,

    Thanks for the nice message. I should be out of here pretty quick and I have things pretty squared away but thanks for the thoughts!


  4. Hi David,

    Hope you had a good stint over there at MCM. I am just about on my way out of here (hopefully!). But I’m sure my replacement would love to correspond with your science class. She has pretty much taken over my tasks at ARO and she is settling in nicely. She has her own blog going at

    You can shoot her an email as well at Christine.Schultz.Guest [at] usap [dot] gov