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Tuesday, 24 September, 2002, 11:53 GMT 12:53 UK
Balloon altitude attempt postponed
Andy Elson (left) and Colin Prescot in training. Copyright PA
Andy Elson (left) and Colin Prescot will keep training
A British attempt to break the world altitude record for a manned balloon flight has been postponed until next year because of bad weather conditions.

British pilots Andy Elson and Colin Prescot were aiming to ascend beyond 40 kilometres (130,000 feet) into the Earth's stratosphere in their balloon, QinetiQ 1.

The plan was to take off and land off the north coast of Cornwall, near St Ives. But high winds have made the project too dangerous.

The team has announced it will try again early next year.

Training for the two pilots, who will wear spacesuits while on their flight platform, will continue until the weather improves.

The team is, understandably, disappointed

Andy Elson
The current height record for a balloon journey stands at 34,747 m (114,000 ft).

When fully inflated, Elson and Prescot's balloon will be 395 metres (1,295 ft) tall - seven times the height of Nelson's Column - and visible up to 966 km (600 miles) away.

At peak altitude, the pilots will be able to see the curvature of the planet and will be floating in a virtually atmosphere-free environment.

During the flight, the pilots will sit on an open flight deck wearing spacesuits that have been designed with the help of the Russian engineers who make cosmonaut suits.

At the proposed altitude, the suits will have to withstand extreme pressure and temperatures as low as -73 Celsius.

The flight, if successful, will last for about 12 hours, and will end by splashing down into the Atlantic.

The QinetiQ 1 is one of the largest helium balloons ever made. Copyright QinetiQ
QinetiQ 1 is one of the largest helium balloons ever made
The biggest problem postponing the launch has proved to be the varying weather conditions between sea level and the stratosphere.

A 72-hour window of fine weather is needed, as high altitude winds could rip the massive balloon apart.

Pilot and project director Andy Elson said: "The team is, understandably, disappointed that the conditions weren't right to launch this year. Having said that, we are raring to go for next year.

"The fact that we can start the year with everything ready and the team fully trained means our chances of launching early should be greatly increased."


Click here to go to BBC Cornwall
See also:

09 Jul 02 | Science/Nature
03 May 02 | Science/Nature
08 Nov 01 | England
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