DIY Space: Balloons and Balls

Captain Kangaroo loved ping pong balls. Just ask him. Image hosted on Photobucket from Sodahead.

27,000 were used for re-floating a boat.  They’ve been shot at high speeds out of air cannons.  Captain Kangaroo enjoyed a daily shower of them.  But there’s a person that’s determined to get them into space, too.  What is it that’s the object of all this activity?  Ping pong balls!  The person who’s trying to send them to space?  John Powell and his team.

This is another Kickstarter-sponsored project.  And it’s another Kickstarter-sponsored project that is using high altitude balloons.  In this case, all of the project is already funded, but the balloons are designed to get the ping-pong balls high in the sky.  The ping-pong balls, by the time students are finished with them, are called “PongSats.”  PongSats have been taking flight starting about 12 years ago.  The idea is to allow the students to modify an individual ping pong ball that’s been cut in half.  They can put electronics, seeds, marshmallows, etc.  Considering the size of sensors nowadays, a heck of a lot can be put into a single ping pong ball.

A PongSat electronics package. Image on JP Aerospace’s site.
PongSats prettified. Image on JP Aerospace’s site.

Once the PongSats are sent back to JP Aerospace (John Powell’s team), they will eventually be sent into “near space” via a high altitude balloon.  The balloon is designed to achieve an altitude of 100,000 ft (about 19 miles).  How can students get involved?  Go to JP Aerospace’s site or read their PongSat Guide.  The guide states that the program is “completely free and open to everyone.”  The address to get in touch with JP Aerospace is in both resources as well.

If you are a superb PongSat handler, perhaps you could give it a try.  Build a PongSat, send it to space, get it back, and maybe learn a thing or two.

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