Guidelines : Tethered Balloon System Missions


In a typical year, ARM expects to conduct approximately six to eight tethered balloon system (TBS) missions, using the ARM TBS baseline instruments, with each mission lasting two weeks. Requests for missions will be made through TBS calls, which will be held near the beginning of the calendar year or through a call for the ARM Mobile Facility (AMF). At this time, TBS missions may only be requested at ARM observatories identified in calls for TBS proposals or as part of AMF proposals.

A standard TBS mission involves a single tethered balloon carrying baseline ARM instruments. In most locations, the balloon must remain in clear air and below the base of nearby clouds. TBS flights are restricted to daytime operations, and an individual flight typically lasts from a few hours to approximately eight hours.

Proposals should provide details regarding mission parameter requirements that may impact science goals. Mission parameters that should be considered include:

  • the flight location
  • season or seasons
  • time of day
  • desired altitude
  • the number and duration of flights required
  • desired meteorological conditions during the flight
  • whether fixed-altitude flights or profiles would be more appropriate for their science goals.

Proposals for flights of non-baseline ARM instruments or guest instruments will also be considered but will need to be reviewed in consideration of payload constraints.

In addition, requests may be made to fly guest instruments as part of previously approved TBS missions through the proposal process for small campaigns. Such requests must be submitted in sufficient time for review and integration, but a minimum of four months prior to the campaign depending on the complexity of the instrument and the timing relative to the quarterly review cycle.

Annual Call

Proposals for new TBS missions will be solicited through a TBS annual call. The call is coincident with the annual Facilities Integrating Collaborations for User Science (FICUS) call for the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL), which, like ARM, is a DOE Office of Science user facility.

The FICUS program was established in 2014 to encourage and enable ambitious research projects integrating the expertise and capabilities of multiple user facilities.

In addition to the standard set of ARM instruments, ARM can fly the EMSL Size- and Time-Resolved Aerosol Collector (STAC) or the Time-Resolved Bulk Aerosol Collector (TBAC). Samples collected on the STAC and TBAC may be analyzed via multimodal microscopy, spectroscopy, and advanced mass spectrometry techniques at EMSL through the joint ARM/EMSL call.

Proposals requesting the STAC or TBAC must be submitted to the ARM/EMSL FICUS solicitation. Proposals not requiring these EMSL instruments and analysis will follow the review procedure outlined for small field campaigns. Most TBS missions will qualify as level 3 campaigns.

Requests for TBS missions may also be made in connection with requests for deployment of an AMF through the AMF annual call.

General Outline for FICUS Call

  • Letters of intent due (required)
  • Invitation to submit proposals
  • Full proposals due
  • Decision notices sent.

Full FICUS Proposal Requirements

A letter of intent is required for the FICUS call to facilitate the planning of the peer-review process, ensure alignment of proposals to ARM and EMSL missions and capabilities, and assist users in building strong proposals. More details on the information required in a letter of intent can be found through the ARM/EMSL FICUS web page.

FICUS Award Timeline

Awards are announced around July, and awarded projects begin in October. Therefore, FICUS flights would not start until at least July and likely not until October.

Research Funding

Please note that for successful proposals, ARM provides the operational and logistical resources to conduct the proposed mission. However, ARM does not provide research funding associated with the mission.

TBS Calendar