by L. Paul Verhage
Approaching the Final Frontier
The BalloonSat program is an
effort by the Space Grants of
several states to capture the
interest and imagination of college —
and in some cases — high school
students through a space flight experience. BalloonSats are miniature
near spacecraft. They are limited in
weight and carry only a simple data
logger, sensors, and small camera.
Students can quickly construct and
test BalloonSats. BalloonSats carry
no tracking equipment, therefore,
they’re carried as cargo on an amateur near spacecraft.
2. Maximum volume of 1,000 cm3
(roughly, a four inch cube).
3. Temperatures must be recorded
both inside and outside the
BalloonSat for the entire mission.
4. Must carry one additional science
payload (usually a small camera).
5. Built within a budget of $400.00.
6. Contact information recorded on
the exterior of the BalloonSat (in case
a farmer finds it first).
The Construction of
The Colorado Space Grant has created a book explaining the BalloonSat
program. The book provides the necessary information for students to create
and test a BalloonSat without actually
giving them step-by-step directions.
BalloonSats are designed to meet a list
of criteria. These can vary, but the
criteria specified by the Colorado Space
1. Total maximum weight of 500
grams (1.1 pounds).
7. Successfully complete all preflight
tests before launch.
Most BalloonSats I’ve seen are
simple cubes with one opened face.
The typical BalloonSat airframe is
made from glued sheets of foamcore.
Foamcore is a paper-backed 3/16
inch thick layer of Styrofoam and is
available at art and framing stores.
Space Grants recommend using
silicone glue, JB Weld, or hot glue
to assemble the airframe of a
BalloonSat. The hatch covering the
BalloonSat’s opened face is sealed
shortly before launch with tape or
Logo for the Amateur Radio
High Altitude Ballooning Community
At school, I have access to
software I could never afford on my
own. So when I learned about Corel
Draw, I decided to give it a whirl with
a logo for my favorite hobby. After lots
of time and help, I came up with this
design that I would like to share. I
created the design partly because,
while individual groups have their own
logo, there isn't a logo for the hobby
as a whole.
Please feel free to use this design
in your own near space projects. The
design is in the public
domain and free to
everyone. You can
download it from
the Nuts & Volts
website at www.
Velcro. The exterior of a BalloonSat
is usually covered in aluminum
A metal or plastic tube is glued
through the center of each
BalloonSat so it can be tethered to a
near spacecraft. The tube insures that
the flight string passing through the
BalloonSat doesn’t cut its way
through the Styrofoam of the
airframe. Several BalloonSats are
attached to a single nylon flight string
which hangs from the bottom of the
last module of the near spacecraft.
Knots tied in the flight string allow
split rings to hold the BalloonSats
in place. There’s about a one foot
separation between BalloonSats on
the flight string.
The data logger inside the
BalloonSat is an OnSet Hobo data
logger. Students spend part of their
Figure 1. A gang of BalloonSats on
their way to near space.