S'pore bans space balloons for safety reasons

S'pore bans space balloons for safety reasons

SPACE balloons or high-altitude balloons that can take up to 10 hours to attain a desired height and return to the ground are not allowed to be launched in Singapore for safety reasons.

With busy skies and a dense population, such flights can pose risks to aircraft, and human lives, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said yesterday.

The ban on such flights means Singapore firm IN.Genius, which plans to send the first Singaporean into near-space on National Day, must launch its capsule, measuring 2m by 2m by 3m, from another country.

Explaining its rationale, CAAS said in a press statement yesterday that space balloons have limited steering capability, move at a relatively slow speed and are highly affected by environmental conditions like wind. Because they may drift from the desired flight path, to allow such flights to be launched would mean having to divert aircraft away from a large zone around the balloon.

"This will require the closure of the affected airspace for prolonged periods, causing severe disruption to civilian air traffic. Hundreds of flights and hundreds of thousands of passengers could be adversely affected," said CAAS.

Changi Airport handles about 1,000 aircraft take-offs and landings on an average day.

IN.Genius was told of the concerns in late 2013, said CAAS.

The firm's founder and director Lim Seng said yesterday: "I was hoping to launch here but I understand the constraints and concerns that the authority has."

He still plans to launch the balloon on National Day and is in talks with several parties to confirm the location. "What's more important is that this is a Singapore effort and we're sending a Singaporean up," he said.

karam@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on January 10, 2015.
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