April 23, 2018

Strateole-2

Strateole-2 is a French-American project designed to study atmospheric events above the equator. It consists in launching several gigantic balloons capable of staying aloft at an altitude of 18 to 20 km high for over 3 months. The first science campaign is scheduled for winter 2020-2021.

Earth’s equator is where our planet’s most powerful atmospheric events occur, and their effects can be observed as far as the polar areas. However, many of these events remain largely misunderstood and are consequently poorly represented in meteorology and climate models. To fill this data gap from a remote area note covered by other sensing systems, the Strateole-2 project plans to launch several balloons from the Indian Ocean. Two scientific campaigns are scheduled; one between November 2020 and April 2021, the other between November 2023 and April 2024.

Each campaign will launch 20 helium-filled transparent stratospheric pressure balloons, spanning 11 to 13 meters and capable of staying aloft at an altitude of 18 to 20 km for over 3 months, thus circling the Earth along the equator 2 to 3 times to collect a wealth of data.

Some observations (temperature, wind, pressure) will be sent in near-real time to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) to improve weather forecast in tropical regions.

With its renowned expertise in scientific ballooning, CNES is playing a central role in the Strateole-2 project, working in close collaboration with several French and American laboratories, including the LMD dynamic meterology laboratory, which is principal investigator on the project. The European Space Agency (ESA) also taking part in the mission to validate the Aladin instrument, scheduled to launch in late summer 2018 aboard the Aeolus satellite. Other instrument calibration and validation operations are being discussed. Strateole-2 is also part of the WMO’s SPARC climate programme.