On September 22, JP Aerospace (JPA), Rancho Cordova, Calif., will launch 1,000 ping-pong balls containing student projects to the edge of space and back. The company use the Kickstarter crowd-sourcing Web site to fund the project so there is no cost to participants.
The ping-pong balls, called PongSats, contain entire experiments and projects made by kindergartners, university professors, high-school science classes, and home-schooled children that are flown to 100,000 ft on weather balloons.
JPA will launch the PongSats from Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. The vehicles carrying them, called High Racks, are made of foam and carbon fiber, with four separate telemetry links to the balloon to track it during flight. It will take four High Racks to carry the 1,000 ping-pong balls. When the mission is over, the High Rack descends by parachute, landing approximately 20 to 200 miles from the launch site. After the landing the PongSats are returned to their creators along with data from the flight, a DVD with video of the launch and onboard scenes, and a certificate showing they flew.
“I’m always completely floored by the projects folks put in their PongSats,” says John Powell, president of JP Aerospace. “Projects have ranged from plant seeds and marshmallows to full upper atmospheric labs all in a ping-pong ball.”