NASA balloon finally takes flight in Wanaka

The balloon lifted off shortly after 11:30am Tuesday morning (NASA)
The balloon lifted off shortly after 11:30am Tuesday morning (NASA)

The fifth attempt at launching the balloon is a success (NASA)

It's been touch-and-go for weeks but now NASA's balloon has finally been launched in Wanaka today.

The balloon, filled with helium, will carry its 1000kg scientific payload skyward at 300m a minute. It reaches a height of 34km and when inflated is large enough to hold a football field.

"It's a good, cheap substitute for a satellite," space commentator Matthew Pavletich said.

"It can do many of the same science [experiments] that a satellite can do for a couple of million dollars, as opposed to up to a billion dollars."

A test small weather balloon went up earlier this morning, worrying scientists there might not be enough wind this time rather than too much, which has forced previous attempts to be abandoned. The balloon needs winds under four knots to launch, but conditions have remained good enough to get it up in the air. 

The NASA team rolled the balloon and payload out to the flight line at Wanaka Airport and laid it out earlier this morning, ahead of inflating it. It's hoped the balloon will remain sky high for 100 days. 

The best viewing points for the balloon will be Hawea Flat side of the Clutha River, on Mt Iron, and on the hill on the Hawea side of the Red Bridge by Kane Rd.

For the live broadcast from Wanaka Airport tune in to Radio Wanaka 97.0FM. 

You can watch the live stream here