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TECH SPOT: BALLOONS AND SATELLITES
August 28, 2020
[Image captured during HFA stratosphere test flight]
Welcome to the third post in our Tech Spot series! Click here for the previous post and here for the series explainer.
You may have seen the whiteboard animation on our website or Facebook homepage (if you haven’t, check it out!) with a little balloon floating over barbed wire fences to deliver Bibles – but what kind of balloons do we actually use? Not the regular birthday kind, for sure! Read on to know more.
What kind of balloons do you use?
We use high-altitude balloons of the same kind as weather balloons. They have the flexibility to carry Bibles in any form, such as an SD card, microchip, booklet or USB (just like the audio Bibles in the previous post). The flight route is planned beforehand and monitored with satellite tracking.
Here’s an idea of what a balloon looks like when fully inflated:
[HFA balloon inflation test]
In this photo series on Facebook you can see each step of how we manufacture a nozzle to fill the balloons with helium. Even a raw piece of metal and the laws of physics can demonstrate truths about our God who created them!
- During test flights, we went up into the stratosphere and reached a height of over 100,000 feet/30 km. See picture above!
- For testing purposes, we inflated balloons in our factory until they burst. This particular balloon bursts at a diameter of 7 m! (We warned the neighbours before it popped!)
[Remnants of a balloon that has just burst! Image captured during HFA testing]
How does it work?
When we fly a balloon, it’s no case of ‘throwing chance to the wind’ – thanks to computer modelling, we know the trajectory of the flight path before we even launch the balloon. This allows us to plan and pinpoint where the transported Bibles will end up. During the flight, we can compare how the predicted trajectory compares with the actual flight path and make adjustments if necessary. The onboard GPS determines the actual location of the balloon and communicates that position to orbiting satellites that relay the information back to the home base. Without satellite technology, this method of Bible delivery would be inaccurate and hardly possible.
What’s the idea with high-altitude balloons?
The basic idea is ‘long-distance deliveries’ – to overcome hostile and inaccessible surroundings. Balloons can be used to reach unreached people groups through literally ‘spreading’ the word! They can also be used to deliver a Bible to believers who don’t have access to a Bible, but can later reach out to others.
Any route can be used to spread the gospel – land, sea, or sky! At creation, God instructed the birds to multiply and fill the sky with testimony to His creation. Among other things, HFA provides balloon technology to partner organisations, to multiply and transport the message about His salvation through that same sky.
Thanks for reading! We hope thinking about God’s creation filled with His Word inspires you to see it filled with His kingdom too.
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