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Name: Brenda
Status: educator
Age: 40s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 2000-2001

I want to know how much weight a weather balloon can hold. Also, what kind of equipment goes up with the balloon. ie: a computer system? What kind & how powerful is it? Any infrared or ultrasound equipment? radio? Is there a diferent kind of balloon that is in use for information gathering purposes now?


The modern weather balloon can carry no more weight than they used to, which is, at maximum, about a pound for the standard balloon size. Larger sizes of balloons are used for special studies or research projects. The modern radiosonde uses a GPS system to indicate location and height above the ground, but continues to use a thermistor to measure temperature, a capacitive device to measure relative humidity, a solid state sensor to measure pressure, the GPS information to determine speed and direction of flight, and radio to transmit the data back to the Earth. Microprocessors (a computer) are not needed for the simple tasks performed by the radiosonde. However, the research types of balloon packages often contain microprocessors and analysers for air pollutants, radiation sensors, very accurate vapor pressure sensors, etc. These are much heavier packages (up to 30 pounds) and use much larger balloons, or for>low-level flights they use tethersondes (a large blimp-shaped balloonthat is tethered to a winch on the ground). I don't know of any balloons used for information gathering (photography, spying, etc.).

David Cook
Argonne National Laboratory

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