UK research agency Qinetiq is again preparing to launch its Qinetiq 1 manned helium balloon this year, aiming for a world manned balloon altitude record of 132,000ft (430,000m). Last year's attempts were aborted after suitable weather conditions at ground level and in the stratosphere failed to coincide.

Pilots Andy Elson and Colin Prescot will try to beat the 113,666ft altitude record set in 1961 by a two-man US Navy balloon. Qinetiq says it has made improvements to the 1.29 million m3 (45 million ft3) polyethylene envelope, and has recently tested a 1/88 scale version of the new design to breaking point to confirm fabric strength and inflated shape.

Qinetiq 1 is made from panels of polyethylene, heat-welded together with load-tape. At launch, the balloon will stand 380m tall, and will expand into a near-spherical shape at altitude. The launch attempt is scheduled for between June and September this year.

Source: Flight International