Solar Hot Air Balloon Team Attempt World Record

The launch of a solar hot air balloon took place early this morning from Balloon Fiesta Park in an attempt by a team of balloonists to break two world records using only the power of the sun to heat the air inside the envelope and lift the balloon into the stratosphere.

The launch of solar hot air balloon “Jon Magnus” was successful earlier this morning at Balloon Fiesta Park.
Nicknamed “Jon Magnus,” the balloon is almost four stories tall, and is the work of a team led by Daniel Bowman, Geosciences Engineer, who has previously built and launched a number of solar balloons.

Radar reflector and science payload.

According to Paul Garver, manager of the Anderson Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum, today’s launch is the culmination of months of work by Bowman and his team.
“We’ve been pleased to assist Danny in recent weeks as final preparations have been made. The use and display of this technology is an example of how ballooning takes many forms and offers potential future applications to solve problems and make scientific advancements,” Garver said.

If Jon Magnus reaches an altitude of 100,000 feet, it will likely qualify as a new record holder for the greatest height reached by a hot air balloon and the highest for a solar-powered balloon. The balloon’s thin plastic envelope allows sunlight to heat and trap warm air inside, without the help of propane burners or other heat sources.

To help heat the air inside the balloon, the team coated the envelope with biochar, a black carbon made from plant waste. At the University of Arizona, biochar is showing great promise as an environmental sorbent and soil enhancer. In this case, it provides a “green” resource to help the balloon fly.

Along for the ride is a device known as the Raspberry Boom, an open source atmospheric infrasound monitor. Infrasound, or sound below human hearing, can travel for thousands of miles and comes from numerous sources including tornadoes, lightening, volcanic eruptions, explosions, meteors, rocket launches, and even some animal calls. The balloon team expects to pick up the hum of ocean waves colliding — from the skies above New Mexico, and perhaps a host of other interesting activities from far below.

Daniel Bowman, center, gathers with members of his team for this group photo at the Balloon Museum where final assembly of the Jon Magnus took place.


The Raspberry Boom is the brainchild of Raspberry Shake, a company that provides citizen science Earth monitoring solutions. Raspberry Shake has sponsored the Jon Magnus balloon in support of their ongoing Kickstarter campaign to fund production of the Boom.

Projected trajectories for Jon Magnus show it heading east with a possible landing in Oklahoma or Texas. Sensors aboard the balloon will transmit its position and altitude. To follow the flight on social media, search using hashtags #RaspberryBoom and #BoomBalloon.

Solar hot air balloon inflation.

Named in honor of Albuquerque’s pioneering aeronauts Maxie Anderson and Ben Abruzzo, the Balloon Museum opened in 2005 and has since welcomed over one million visitors from across New Mexico, the United States, and around the world. Through its extensive collection of artifacts, interactive special exhibitions, and engaging educational programs, the Museum is a gateway to science, exploration, and discovery. The Museum is open year round and hosts many community-oriented special events, features unique art and architecture, and offers distinctive rental spaces for meetings, weddings and receptions, and other celebrations.


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