DIY space experiments within a ping pong ball ‘satellite’

Pongsat space satellite

Ahhh space. The final frontier. While many people dream of one day becoming an astronaut (and possibly battling aliens or cylons), it’s a select few who actually make it their reality. Fortunately for us, there’s a middle ground that allows the masses to still have some fun in the sky. Enter the “Pongsat” program – space experiments within a ping pong ball.

Created by JP Aerospace, this free program allows anyone to create their own mini experiment and send it off to the edge of space. The imagination is the limit. Curious if a marshmallow will expand? Interested what the temperature would be? Wonder if you can charge a solar battery? Stuff it inside a ping pong ball and find out!

Check out the PDF Users Guide to get started, then their Blog and Facebook page for more up to date information.  Now go out there and get your experiment to Mars! (Or at least 100,00 feet)

Watch a video of in flight footage after the break.

[via adafruit]

Comments

  1. Purduecer says:

    Actual ping pong balls? Would there not be outgassing problems?

    • Tom Kane says:

      You have to cut them in half to put the gubbins in, so the out-gassing would instant.

    • Blue Footed Booby says:

      I could see the balls being sturdy enough to contain the pressure, or maybe they’d tend to blow a hairline crack that lets the gas out while retaining the ball’s shape. vOv

      Just for the record, I don’t want to battle aliens; I want to befriend them. And by befriend I may in fact mean have sex with.

      • Xander says:

        Too much Mass Effect?

      • kb says:

        Captain Kirk, is that you?

      • barry99705 says:

        Flesh and bone and silicone
        You’re all by yourself, but you’re never alone
        You’re pretty smooth, for a chick full of wires
        So cold to the touch
        But you set me on fire
        Assimilate me
        Dominate me
        Short circuit my mind
        Energize me
        Your thighs always rise me
        Let’s go out and make your gears grind
        Seven of mine

        One minute you’re cruel
        And then you’re kind
        You gave me a virus, but baby I don’t mind
        ‘Cause I self destruct when I see your behind
        I’ll show you the difference between seven and nine

        Chorus

        Well, life and love are so absurd
        And assimilation is the final word
        Resistance is futile can’t you see
        So, come on now baby and assimilate me
        I’ll give you an identity
        Locutus ain’t got nothing on me, oh yeah

        Let’s grab a shuttle and go to your cube
        You bring the oil and honey I’ll bring the lube
        It’s not monogamy
        ‘Cause in the end
        When I’m f****** you, I’m f****** all of your friends

        Chorus

  2. Tom Kane says:

    And also. This is the coolest thing.

  3. Leithoa says:

    43 miles short of the karman line is hardly the ‘edge of space’ marketing hype like this needs to stop.

    • Rob says:

      It’s free, don’t knock it!

      • Leithoa says:

        High altitude science is cool and free is a great price but in the scientific world accuracy is paramount. Sure the Karman line is arbitrary and possibly not the best definition, but it’s the one international bodies use.
        It’d be like a company building a mini sub that goes down 200ft offering to carry your ‘deep sea’ science experiments for free.
        I’m not saying don’t offer the service, just call it what it is. High altitude balloon reseach.

        • colecoman1982 says:

          I prefer to think of it this way, if a balloon can get you there then it’s not space…

          • damiangerous says:

            Depends on how you define “balloon”. The same company is developing multi stage airships to orbit and has made 100k+ mile test flights. You can read about them under the ATO program. Getting to orbit is most definitely “space”.

          • Greenaum says:

            Yup. What are they actually offering anyway? You’ve still got full gravity, since presumably it’s not orbiting. Very little air, and quite cold, but there are refrigerated vacuum chambers on Earth. Any cosmic rays worth observing?

            It seems like expanding marshmallows is about the level of research you’re gonna get out of it. Microgravity is a particularly busy area of research, but in the upper atmosphere what is there to do apart from observe the upper atmosphere? Maybe radio experiments, but they wouldn’t fit into a ping-pong ball.

          • asheets says:

            @Greenaum — After reading the article, I thought about seeing if I can get my Trackuino and battery to fit in a pingpong ball. A little APRS tracking action and all that… But somehow I don’t think I’d get approval from JP for an active 2-meter transmitter. Plus, it has been done before.

            On the other hand, if you could get approval for a transmitter, a high-altitude 10-meter QRP beacon would hold some interest in the ham community. A code generator, battery, crystal-oscillator transmitter, and hunk of wire for the antenna would just about fit.

          • Greenaum says:

            I did think that hams might have some use for it, but then the serious ham groups seem to be okay doing high-altitude balloon experiments by themselves. And to do any sort of useful studies of atmospheric propagation or what waves are up there, etc, I think you’d need a bigger device, especially for antennas. What does high altitude give a QRP beacon? Range, obviously, but I could’ve told you that sat here on the ground.

            Is this balloon platform going to be higher than the typical weather-balloon stuff existing hams use? Or have some other desirables? I know electronics are small nowadays but what use can you get from a small circuit in the upper atmosphere?

    • damiangerous says:

      From the PongSat User Guide linked above:
      “We launch the PL rocket from the ground and from balloons and airships. Ground launches
      reach from 10,000 to 30,000 feet. Balloon and airship launches reach 63 miles.”

      They have multiple types of missions and launch vehicles, some of which do cross the Kaman line.

      • Leithoa says:

        Launching a vehicle -from- a balloon and dragging your experiment to +100kft are two different services. I imagine rockets are not included in the ping-pong ball sized free high altitude package.

    • Phil says:

      Agreed – that’s like saying you’ve built a car which doesn’t use any gasoline or electricity – and all you’ve done is buy a diesel car. Or saying that balloon or sounding rockets are the same things as satellites.

      It’s certainly a neat activity, but it IS NOT OUTER SPACE.

      Quit the hype. Every time I see something referred to as “near space” when it’s not even out of the stratosphere I think less of the person who says it, or the website which reports it.

      • kj6epl says:

        True that it is the stratosphere, not space. However, for research purposes, it is identical in that cosmic radiation is present, the air is too thin for sound to travel nor for convective heat transfer to work, and sunlight is far more intense than on the ground. Really, the only difference comes in to play if you’re moving at hypersonic speeds. Otherwise don’t waste the money in going higher to do your research.

        • Galane says:

          the air is too thin for sound to travel

          Really? I heard the balloon burst in the video.

          • kj6epl says:

            Well, the vehicle’s frame can transmit sound too, and the balloon does have a mechanical connection to the frame. Ever played telephone with a string and cups?

  4. Alex says:

    so when is the next launch?

  5. cde says:

    But how can you tell that the marshmallow expanded without a camera? Wouldn’t it recompress when it comes back down?

  6. Jonathan says:

    This is a great program! I am currently in the process of building a Pongsat for a university project! Hopefully I can launch it with these guys and get some real data back!

  7. Hack Man says:

    Let me save you a boatload of $$$.

    Curious if a marshmallow will expand?
    It will.

    Interested what the temperature would be?
    Very cold.

    Wonder if you can charge a solar battery?
    Yes, you can.

  8. kj6epl says:

    BTW, if you’d like to 3D print your pongsat for extra geek appeal, I have a model available here: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:37426

  9. nikescar2 says:

    Why do people think that stuff they are not interested in sucks? Oh, internet. This is pretty cool.

  10. mark says:

    This looks amazing. i want to try.

  11. JOhn Powell says:

    JP Aerospace is at it again. This September we’re flying 2000 PongSats! We’re running a Kickstarter effort so we can keep the PongSats completely free.

    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1569698176/2000-student-projects-to-the-edge-of-space/posts

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