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Environmental Assessment, Balloon Launch and Landing Operations, Air Force Research Laboratory, Space Vehicles Directorate, Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico

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The mission of the Air Force Research Laboratory AFRLSpace Vehicles Directorate RV, stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base AFB, New Mexico, is to provide the Air Force, Department of Defense DoD, their contractors, and other federal agencies with near-space access for research and development RD. Under the Proposed Action, AFRLRV would collect high-altitude data 65,000 feet or greater needed to support programs critical to the long-term defense and military readiness of the United States. This information would be used to enhance the technologies needed to characterize the stratospheric environment, improve over-the-horizon communications capabilities, and develop technologies for DoD-related stratospheric and space-based systems. Selection criterion EA 2.1 was used to identify the range of reasonable alternatives which could meet AFRLRV underlying purpose and need. This criterion focused on two areas platform requirements and launch and landing locations. In order to collect the atmospheric data, the platform had to 1 allow the research vessel to reach and loiter at altitudes greater than 65,000 feet 2 be able to carry up to 7,000 pounds of payload 3 be re-useable for other flight testing missions 4 keep average costs under 1 million per flight operation 4 allow for a wide range of operations and flight configurations and 5 be readily available for flights within three months of initial planning. The launch and landing locations had to be within a 10-hour drive from Kirtland AFB and could only occur during clear, atmospheric conditions with less than 50 percent cloud cover and low surface winds.

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  • Lighter-than-air Aircraft

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