Flying High: RKW Produces Films for Scientific Stratospheric Balloons

RKW Rémy produces high-performance technical films for the stratospheric balloons of French space agency CNES (©CNES/Prodigima).

RKW Rémy Cooperates with French Space Agency CNES

Frankenthal (Germany), March 29, 2019 - The RKW Group is literally bringing film manufacturing to a whole new level: At its Site RKW Rémy in Saultain, France, RKW produces high-performance technical films for the stratospheric balloons of the French space agency CNES (Centre national d'études spatiales). The balloons made with RKW film are used for missions at heights of up to 40 kilometers and therefore depend on special material properties and high quality.

With a diameter of up to 148 m and volume capacities of 3,000 to 1,200,000 m3, the development of the envelope for the CNES stratospheric zero pressure balloon (ZPB) or BSO (Ballon Stratosphérique Ouvert) posed several challenges to the experts at Rémy. "We were required to produce a very thin high-performance film for the balloon envelope that had to be absolutely tear and perforation resistant. It also had to carry a weight of up to 1,750 kg in the harsh environment conditions of the stratosphere over several hours or even a few days," explains François Nélias. R&D Engineer & Product Manager at RKW Rémy. "'The film is made from a high impact and puncture resistant polyethylene resin. The use of any additive such as polymer processing aids is out of the question, as we have to prevent any contamination from a second raw material. This of course makes the extrusion process even more difficult."

RKW has met the challenge. Hundreds of meters of the only 15 to 25µm thick film are processed, cut and welded together to produce the balloon envelope with tear panel and degassing sleeves.

CNES, the French Space Agency, develops and operates stratospheric balloons such as the ZPB/BSO for a variety of scientific measurements. At heights of up to 40 kilometers, the helium-filled balloon transports instruments that perform, among other things, astronomy missions and in situ measurements in the stratosphere to study its dynamics, physics and chemistry.

Long-standing competence for innovation and quality

As an expert in excellent film solutions, the RKW Group offers a wide range of customized technical films, developed in close cooperation with customers. Apart from aiming for optimum functionality, considerations such as protecting resources and recycling play an important role during product development - customers value RKW especially as a provider of resource-saving solutions in their value chain. Particularly in the areas of lamination films, label films, surface protection films and breathable films, customers rely on the expertise and reliable quality of RKW products.

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The RKW Group

The RKW Group is an independent, family-owned company headquartered in Frankenthal, Germany and one of the world's foremost manufacturers of excellent film solutions. RKW is the market leader in the areas of hygiene and agricultural films, films for the beverage industry and packaging for powdery goods. In addition, the company makes films and nonwovens for medical applications, for the chemical and converting industries as well as for the construction sector. RKW's sustainable films enable its customers to improve the daily life of consumers all over the world.

In the fiscal year 2018, RKW generated total sales of EUR 878 million. About 3,000 employees process 367,000 tonnes of plastic materials at 20 locations around the world. True to the corporate slogan "When excellence matters", the company, which was founded in 1957, offers outstanding performance in terms of quality and service. Respect and reliability are the core values of RKW and form the basis of the company's success.

Press Contact

RKW Rémy S.A.S.
Arnaud Stibling
General Manager RKW Rémy
63, Avenue Henri Barbusse
59990 Saultain, France
T +33 (0)3 27 14 72 02