QINETIQ1 (balloon mission)

It was a balloon mission aimed to set a new world altitude record for manned balloon flight of around 40 km, sponsored by QinetiQ a British global defence technology company, formelly part of the UK government agency, Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA).

The initiative used a zero-pressure balloon of 40 million cubic feet and was meant to be piloted by two aeronauts: Andy Elson and Colin Prescot wearing Zvezda-manufactured Sokol space suits to keep them alive during the anticipated twelve-hour flight.

The open gondola was lightweight, high strength carbon fibre structure designed to provide all their essential life support and emergency systems, including parachutes, flotation, balloon control systems, oxygen systems, communications and extensive video and camera systems. It was designed by ACL.

The attempt was originally planned for 2002, but adverse high altitude conditions halted several attempts in that year. The launch site was decided to be from off the coast of Cornwall.

In 2003 the launch was initially set to take place on September 2 from the deck of the RV Triton (a UK navy vessel of modern design) off the coast of St Ives. Early that morning, it was decided to postpone the launch for 24 hours due to cloud cover at high altitude. The following morning an attempt was made to inflate the balloon but around 6.55 AM with the balloon inflated to a height of 15 metres, helium began to escape from the envelope.

An irreparable tear was discovered along one of the seams of the balloon, and all efforts for a flight in 2003 were abandoned.

Althought initially was decided to make another try in the near future by 2005 the project was abandoned.

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