The Stratospheric Balloon Launch Base in Trapani-Milo – no longer active since the summer of 2010 and currently in phasing-out stage – was opened in 1975 and, for over 30 years, was one of the few facilities in the world which were capable of ensuring the design, launch and management of flights using this particular technique, with a specialization in systems with a great mass and volume.
Following is a technical data sheet related to the base under operating conditions.
The launch pad is located by an old airport of more than 90 hectares in the suburbs of Trapani, in an ideal position for trans-Mediterranean and transatlantic launches. Due to its previous specialization, the base is equipped with a wide launch pad which is directly visible from the control tower and a control centre, completely equipped with advanced monitoring and communication systems.
Furthermore, the base is equipped with four hangars for useful load integration and testing. During the last few years, several types of balloons were launched from the base, ranging from 100,000 m3 balloons 1,100,000 m3 balloons.
For its first twenty years of activity, the base focused almost exclusively on the launch of balloons. Today, thanks to the new information and telecommunication technologies, it also carries out support activities to small space missions, provides support to the access to space of developing countries and works in the field of technology transfer and support to small and medium-sized enterprises.
The balloons, in fact, constitute an alternative or an important integration for the satellites or the International Space Station: they are a privileged research instrument in the field of atmospheric physics and are an agile complementary method, which allows to obtain quick responses at low cost.
The ASI manages the activities of the base by proposing the programmes and funding the operations and investments related to the different activities.
The Base cooperates with other agencies and national and international institutes (CNR, ENEA/PNRA, Universities) and international agencies (NASA, ESA, INTA).
Among the most important experiments recently launched from the base of Trapani-Milo, we should mention:
FIGARO, an Italian-French gamma astronomy experiment managed by the CERS (CNES) and the IFCAI/IAS (CNR)
PALLAS, an X-ray astronomy experiment managed by the IAF/IAS (CNR) and the University of Southampton.
ARGO, for infrared astronomy, managed by the IROE/IFA (CNR)
PHOSWICH, an X-ray astronomy balloon managed by the ITESRE (CNR)
LAPEX, an X-ray astronomy experiment managed by the ITESRE/IAS (CNR) e CERS (FR) institutes
ARD, an experimental system for the re-entry into atmosphere of space capsules, developed by the ESA
S.Q.M., a nuclear research project managed by the CNR in Turin and the University of Tokio.
HASI (Huygens Atmospheric Structure Instrument), an instrument aboard the Cassini-Huygens probe to study the atmosphere of Titan, managed by the University of Padua.
BIRBA, a collection of biomedical experiments carried out by several Italian universities and laboratories.
BABY (BAckground BY-pass), for the study of cosmic rays through the detection of UV light, managed by the IASF-CNR in Palermo.
SAFIRE - B an experiment for the far-infrared spectroscopy measurement of the atmospheric composition, managed by the IFAC-CNR in Florence.
Between 2008 and 2009, we should also mention the launches of PEGASUS ((Polar Explorer for Geomagnetism And other Scientific Observations), developed by the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, OLIMPO 1 and 2 (experiments managed by the University of Rome La Sapienza) for the measurement of the anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background); SORA, the new launches of BOOMERANG (Balloon Observations of Millimetric Extragalactic Radiation and Geophysics), managed by the University of Rome La Sapienza; HIPEG (a platform for X-ray astronomy experiments).