• Kyodo

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A balloon sent up Thursday by a research center here reached a world-record altitude of 53 km, officials said.

The Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, which originally aimed for 52 km, said its balloon beat a record of 51.8 km set in the U.S. in 1972.

The test flight took place at the institute’s Sanriku Balloon Center.

The polyethylene balloon was later destroyed.

Designed to withstand low temperatures, this type of balloon is about 50 meters in diameter. It can be used for observations of the upper atmosphere, including the ozone layer, the officials said.

Launching a rocket to perform the same tasks as the balloon would cost 10 times more, they said, adding that a balloon also allows observations for longer periods of time, due to its gradual rise.

Institute member Takamasa Yamagami did not disclose the cost of the test, saying the balloon’s development is still in the experimental stage.

Yamagami said the next challenge is reaching an altitude of 55 km.

The ISAS is a national research institute under the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry.

It conducts space science research, using launch vehicles, scientific satellites, planetary probes and balloons.

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