They don’t produce attention-getting fire and smoke like rockets, but high-altitude helium balloons are undergoing a quiet renaissance as scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs use them for relatively low-cost access to the doorstep of space. As low Earth orbit (LEO) plays host to a new generation of spacecraft, from student-built cubesats to the sophisticated human outposts fielded by China and the International Space Station (ISS) partnership, balloons afford trips to an ...

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