The launch of the BLAST (Balloon borne Large Aperture Sub-millimetre Telescope) telescope, which is intended for the 25 of May or the beginning of June depending on the weather, will take the telescope to a height of 40km where it will journey from Sweden to North West Canada.
It will be launched by a giant, unmanned, helium-filled balloon and is hoped to be the first of a number of launches in the near future.
The flight is the result of a major international partnership. It will be controlled by the National Scientific Balloon Facility based in Palestine, Texas, USA together with the Swedish Space Corporation based at Esrange and NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility based at Wallops Island in the US.
The telescope is equipped with 2 meter mirror and will investigate the early stages of star and planet formation. It will also be used to make high-resolution maps of “diffuse galactic emission” and study the planets.
“BLAST will address some of the most important cosmological and galactic questions regarding the formation and evolution of stars, galaxies and clusters,” says Professor Mark Devlin, BLAST Principal Investigator, from the University of Pennsylvania.
“It will test technology to be used in the future European Space Agency space telescope, Herschel, to be launched in 2007,” he adds.
Andrew Wallace is a freelance science and technology writer based in Sweden. He maintains a personal website.