Above the Clouds
RKW Produces Films for Stratospheric Balloons
The RKW Group is quite literally taking film production to new heights: in Saultain, France, RKW Rémy produces technical high-performance films for the stratospheric balloons of the French space agency CNES (Centre national d’études spatiales).
The open, helium-filled balloons – known technically as zero pressure balloons (ZPB: French: ballon stratosphérique ouvert, BSO) – carry scientific instruments that, among other things, perform astronomical missions and in-situ measurements in the stratosphere at heights up to 40 km. They therefore depend on high quality materials with special properties.
With a diameter of up to 148 m and volume capacities from 3000 to 1.2 million m3 , the development of the balloon envelope posed major challenges for the experts at RKW Rémy. “We had to manufacture a very thin high-performance film that is absolutely tear and perforation resistant. In addition, the film had to carry a weight of up to 1750 kg for several hours, or even days, under the harsh conditions in the stratosphere,” explains François Nélias, Development Engineer and Product Manager at RKW Rémy.
To produce a balloon envelope with tear panel and degassing sleeves, RKW processes, cuts and welds hundreds of meters of film only 15 to 25 µm thick. It consists of an impact and puncture-resistant polyethylene resin. To prevent contamination with a second raw material, additives such as polymeric processing aids, are out of the question – this makes the extrusion process more difficult.
RKW SE Zentrale
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