What Components Make a Hot Air Balloon?
A hot air balloon consists of a bag called the envelope, that is capable of containing heated air. Suspended beneath is a gondola or wicker basket, which carries passengers and (usually) a source of heat, in most cases an open flame. More about the burners.
The heated air inside the envelope makes it buoyant since it has a lower density than the relatively cold air outside the envelope.
As with all aircraft, hot air balloons cannot fly beyond the atmosphere. Unlike gas balloons, the envelope does not have to be sealed at the bottom since the air near the bottom of the envelope is at the same pressure as the surrounding air.
In today’s sport balloons the envelope is generally made of light-weight and strong synthetic fabrics such as ripstop nylon or dacron (a polyester). The mouth of the balloon (closest to the burner flame) is made from fire resistant material such as Nomex.
Beginning in the mid-1970s, balloon envelopes have been made in all kinds of shapes, such as hot dogs, rocket ships, and the shapes of commercial products, though the traditional shape remains popular for most non-commercial, and many commercial, applications.
The first step of the inflation process, the balloon is partially inflated with cold air from a gas-powered fan, then the propane burners are used for final inflation.
During the manufacturing process, the material is cut into panels and sewn together, along with structural load tapes that carry the weight of the gondola or basket. The individual sections, which run from the throat (bottom) to the crown (top) of the envelope, are called gores or gore sections. Hot air balloon envelopes can have as few as 4 gores or as many as 24 or more.
Envelopes often have a crown ring at their very top. This is a hoop of smooth metal, usually aluminum, and approximately 1 ft (0.30 m) in diameter. Vertical load tapes from the envelope are attached to the crown ring.
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