PongSats are flown at no cost to the student or school.
Each of the weather balloons totes skyward a “high rack” made of foam and carbon fiber. A high rack can carry 500 PongSats. Telemetry links to the high racks enable tracking of the vehicles during the flight. At the end of each flight, the balloon is released and the high rack descends by parachute.
The PongSats experience near-vacuum, cosmic rays, temperatures of 90 degrees below zero … and, on the way down, zero gravity.
“We land anywhere from 20 to 200 miles away from the launch site. After landing, the recovery teams with four-wheel-drive vehicles head out across the Sierra Nevada mountains to bring the high racks back,” Powell said.
Space Chair project
A lofty campaign of advertisements is also part of this month’s liftoffs. Past flights have carried paid-for ads and logos representing everything from reverse glass paintings to a line of botanical mists, essential oils and herb tea products. Pictures are taken of the ads at the edge of space, and the images are given back to customers on a CD.
Back in 2009, JP Aerospace balloons carried armchairs to the edge of space for Toshiba’s “Space Chair Project” commercial ? documented by onboard, cutting-edge HD cameras. They showed the chairs adrift above the planet.
The upcoming balloon payloads also include purchased MiniCubes – each a small plastic box 5 centimeters on a side that can hold research, commercial products, art, or whatever else can be stuffed inside.
“We want to get as many people as possible involved and change the way people think about space and science,” Powell said. “Right now space is the thing people see on TV. PongSat makes it the thing you can hold in your hand.”
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