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Charter NEX Films receives awards from NASA

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Balloon Launch

Group Achievement Award and Silver Achievement Medal given to Charter NEX Films in recognition of involvement with NASA’s Balloon Program.

Charter NEX Films, Inc. has received a 2013 NASA Agency Group Achievement Award and a Silver Achievement Medal from NASA in recognition of their involvement with NASA’s Balloon Program. NASA’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility (CSBF) uses Charter NEX film for Super Pressure Balloons and Zero Pressure Balloons.

2012/2013 Antarctic Long Duration Balloon Campaign for NASA’s Balloon Program

The Group Achievement Award was given in recognition for involvement with the 2012/2013 Antarctic Long Duration Balloon (LDB) Campaign for NASA’s Balloon Program. Charter NEX Films was named as part of the team in this successful campaign. Recipients of this award include personnel from NASA, the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility, Aerostar, and Charter NEX Films.

The Silver Achievement Medal was given to Charter NEX Films in recognition of the continued production of exceptional quality balloon film for the NASA Balloon Program.

“We are grateful for the recognition from NASA for our quality and innovation,” said Kathy Bolhous, CEO. “It is an honor to be selected for the Silver Achievement Medal and the Group Achievement Award. Our production team does an excellent job of making the best quality film for the specific applications required.”

“The Silver Achievement Medal award is very special. In some ways it crosses over with the successful 2012/2013 Antarctic campaign, but it is a targeted award specifically for Charter NEX Films,” says Henry Cathey, Jr., engineer with New Mexico State Universities, Physical Science Laboratory. “It is singular recognition of the quality of your product and the dedication of your staff. Only a very select group of Silver Achievement Medals are presented each year from the many applicants. I think these awards speak for themselves on the importance of Charter NEX towards the NASA Balloon Programs success.”

“We are very proud to receive these awards, because they demonstrate our commitment to our people, our assets, and our ability to make critical, high performing films to exacting standards,” said Dave Timm, Executive VP of Technology.

Successful scientific balloon flight missions can be measured with metrics including system performance, “events captured”, quality of data, and more. Underlying and enhancing all of this is the common denominator of time of flight. Longer observation times are better for the science teams. Successful long flight times require exceptional balloons made of very high quality balloon film.

Three successful balloon flights conducted during the 2012/2013 LDB Antarctica Campaign, and the successful Super Pressure Balloon (SPB) deployment flight from Sweden in August 2012 were all made of film manufactured by Charter NEX Films, Inc. These flights demonstrated the manufacturer’s focus toward quality, and, according to Cathey, exemplify a number of the NASA Core Values of excellence, teamwork, and integrity. The August 2012 test flight of the SPB showcased the quality of the balloon film, and was another step toward qualifying a new flight vehicle for the science community. All of the NASA SPBs have been made of Charter NEX film.

Charter NEX Films are specialists in blown film extrusion. They produce high quality specialty products for a number of industries including agriculture, food and beverage, graphics, lawn and garden, industrial, medical, packaging, and more. The NASA film quantity requirements are extremely small compared to the millions of pounds of film Charter NEX produces for other industries.

“The NASA film is a unique and engineered product produced to detailed requirements and specifications,” says Debora Fairbrother, Chief of the NASA Balloon Program Office. “This often requires runs at much slower speeds to produce NASA film, but Charter NEX is committed toward producing the best quality balloon film.”

According to Fairbrother, Charter NEX demonstrates excellence through using state of the art extrusion equipment that produces precision thickness film to the exacting NASA standards. “They have worked very hard on their engineering and production processes to make an extraordinary material,” said Fairbrother. “They have encouraged teamwork through collaboration by working with NASA to refine production processes. Teamwork has been key toward successful product production.” The ongoing relationship between NASA and Charter NEX Films has developed an environment of trust, honest dealings, and fostered open communication that are all marks of a company with integrity.

“Charter NEX appreciates and enjoys the innovative, collaborative process that NASA employs,” said Timm. “The open environment of trust and innovation is something we strive for with all of our customers at Charter NEX.”

In addition to the film produced for NASA’s SPB flights, Charter NEX Films also worked with NASA to develop film for the Long Duration Balloons (LDB). LDB flights from Antarctica have been called the “crown jewel” of the NASA Balloon Programs flights. The launches and extended flights offer the science community a unique platform to launch very large payloads to near space altitudes for flights lasting many weeks. The three successful balloon flights conducted during the 2012/2013 LDB Antarctica Campaign met the full desired success criteria. Two of the flights employed cryogens, and therefore had known flight durations prior to launch; each of these flights met their maximum durations. The third flight broke a record for flight duration for a large NASA flown scientific payload on a balloon, flying for over 55 days.

The Antarctic Long Duration Balloon (LDB) campaign serves as the most significant scientific endeavor of NASA’s Balloon Program since the early 1990’s, and was extraordinarily successful. Throughout the nearly 20 year history of Antarctic scientific ballooning, The NASA Balloon Program has stepped forward to meet the challenge to achieve more science through supporting longer duration flights, heavier payloads, higher data rates and increased mission opportunities in order to increase the returns on science. Thousands of hours of flight time mean significantly increased data return. Not only did these flights accumulate the longest flight times in a single Antarctic Campaign season, but the balloon flight performance in terms of altitude stability was exceptional.

Debora A. Fairbrother, Chief of the NASA Balloon Program Office, and Erin Makela, Marketing Communications Specialist for Charter NEX Films contributed to this article.