JP Aerospace PongSat

by kj6epl, published

JP Aerospace PongSat by kj6epl Dec 12, 2012

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JP Aerospace PongSat by kj6epl is licensed under the GNU - GPL license.

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If you've ever wanted to fly an experiment to the edge of space, this is your chance! PongSat by JP Aerospace is the World's Space Program! A Pongsat is an experiment stuffed inside a ping pong ball, and we fly them for FREE! Sky's (no-- SPACE) is the limit! What will you fly?

Update: By the way, this is an on-going program, not a one time event. We do routine PongSat flights every few months. The PongSat program itself is several years old, and will likely continue for as long as JP Aerospace is in business. So even though this "thing" was posted a couple years ago, it is still very much alive and well. Make yours today!


  1. Read the getting started pdf: http://www.jpaerospace.com/pongsat/PongSGuide-n.PDF

  2. Create your experiment per the guidelines in the pdf.

  3. Cut open a ping pong ball and stuff your experiment inside (or 3D print one using the supplied model for extra geek appeal).

  4. Fill out the form on the back page of the pdf from #1.

  5. Mail us your PongSat with the form from #4, and we'll fly your experiment on our next flight! Our balloon flights routinely reach an altitude of 90,000 to 100,000 feet!

Note: although the PongSat program is focused toward education, anyone anywhere may participate, student or not. The purpose of the program is learning by doing: an opportunity to get hands on with space easily.

Also, the model is provided for you to customize for your experiment, such as adding circuit board, switch, and sensor mounts. The only modification not allowed is making the diameter larger than 40mm, at least not without special permission.


JP Aerospace home page: http://jpaerospace.com/

JP Aerospace blog: http://jpaerospace.com/blog/

JP Aerospace on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jpaerospace

PongSat home page: http://www.jpaerospace.com/pongsat/index.htm

PongSat on Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/PongSat/250288635034145

PongSat on Space.com: http://www.space.com/17589-pongsat-ping-pong-balls-space-balloon.html

PongSat on Wired: http://www.wired.com/design/2012/07/pongsats/

PongSat on NBC: http://dailynightly.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/12/11/15848691-learn-more-about-jp-aerospace?lite

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I'd like to field several of these (my kids, nephew, nieces and of course myself). Is the program still active? If I send one up with a model rocket altimeter and telemetry package would you be able to 'flip the switch' on launch so it could capture data? Another will capture video, so will have a transparent surface (sealed) on one side -- would it be possible to orient the viewport so that it can see outside and capture video?


Yes to all 3 of your questions. Just be sure to include instructions for your electronics. Also keep in mind that electronics will be switched on prior to launch and left on until the battery dies (don't count on someone switching it off after flight).

That's awesome. I noticed some PongSats have 'extensions', like solar panels. I ask because I notice some of the 'egg carton' pong trays could have the PongSats sink in. Would you prefer I send the PongCam in its own styrofoam carrier?

Not to push the limits, but I noticed one picture somewhere with a rocket with SpaceX decals on it. Are you launching rockets that way now? Are you planning on doing that in the near future? I've been launching HP rockets with telemetry payloads including video cameras and can't fly anything past 5000' due to the FAA waiver we have at our field. Would love, love, love to release a small one from your balloon...someday. For now, though, it's a PongSat and based on how well the gear works, we move to the MiniCube.

Many thanks.

Anything larger than a switch protruding from a PongSat ("extensions") require JP's approval. Refer to the getting started PDF in my "Instructions" section for details. This includes design guidelines, allowable payloads, sample experiments, contact info, and the form you'll need to fill out to submit your PongSat(s).

As our main program is Airship To Orbit, we seldom do rocket flights. There have been a couple here and there, but the vast majority of our flights have been balloons.

Awesome. When is the next launch? I ordered a small camera that will easily fit inside a PongSat and I have my rocket altimeter. My kids have their own projects as well so we will be ready. Hopefully you are launching this Spring or later. If I send you the PongSat embedded in a foam block I presume you can orient it so that it is facing outward so it can see unemcumbered. Battery life is about 100 minutes which should be enough to get to apogee. I only care about images going up anyway. I might set the camera to.only run at FL40 or above with a small rocket altimeter like a P-Nut, and I can test it at my next rocket launch in March.

No launch date is currently set, but we typically do 2 dedicated PongSat missions each year, one in the spring and one in the fall. However, PongSats may also hitch a ride on other missions we do at other times throughout the year.

One more question! What is the average flight time from the moment you hit all the switches on any PongSats and when the balloon bursts? I know flight time is 2 hours with 30 minutes in descent, but I am sure there is some time spent between when you hit all the switches and let the balloon go. I have about 100 minutes of battery life on my little camera, and I am hoping that I can get imagery of 'space' in that time span. If not, I might connect a secondary battery to let it drain before the internal one dies.

It's about one and a half to two hours up and 30 min down.

Outstanding. My camera is on its way and I am going to print my Pong halves...

Worst case, if your camera battery dies en route up, you can always view the footage from the vehicle's own onboard cameras on JP Aerospace's YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/johnmpowell

Very true. At some point do you contemplate something along the lines of a program to get a payload into LOE? Depending on how our experiment goes with PongSat, the cube is next

take a ruler and lay it on the horizon in the 5th photo ; )

I take it the "probe" doesn't get high enough for re entry speed and temp to be an issue? My school has a kind of requirement that all students undertake a larger project the year we graduate I'm thinking that making one of these might be mine. (Only have to come up with a good experiment.) Am I right in assuming that If I for example put a sensor that recorded data onto an SD card the card would be returned to me?

No the vehicle does not get high enough for a pyrotechnic reentry, but it does go into supersonic free fall when the balloon bursts. Typically these flights get up to 80,000-100,000 feet, which is in the stratosphere, and at that altitude the environment is virtually identical to space unless you are moving at hypersonic speeds, i.e. the air is so thin that convective heat transfer doesn't work, cosmic radiation is present, and the sunlight is much stronger than on the ground. If you make an electronic experiment, it will be switched on before takeoff and shipped back to you. Make sure you put a clearly labeled on/off switch on the outside of the pongsat, and keep in mind that the recovery teams likely won't switch it back off again when they recover the vehicle, so design it to turn on and be left on until the battery dies. If you need experiment ideas, read the pongsat guide pdf and read the pongsat page on JPA's website (links are in "thing details"). You could also google pongsat, as some participants have posted about their experiments on various blogs.

I'm thinking of making some sort of radio spectrum monitor to see what kind of signals you could find up there would that be a problem for the vehicle it would only be a receiver. Also do you think it would work or is there to many signals going from the vehicle itself that it would drown out everything else. By the way I'm European so the Imperial system is little more than gibberish to me If it's not to much trouble metric would probably make conversation easier.

A receiver is perfectly fine. The two main transmitters on board are 144 MHz and (if equipped) 900 MHz. Transmissions occur once every 15 seconds and last for about a second, so there will be a few seconds of silence on board in between vehicle transmissions.

Wouldn't a truncated octohedron / tetra kaidecahedron allow similar volume to surface area ratio but much better packing ratio if you have a cluster of them inside a box/ container?

It would be more spatially efficient, but you can buy a ping-pong ball just about anywhere. The vast majority of pong sat participants don't have access to a 3D printer. You can't buy a properly sized octohedron at your local retail store.

Are the satellites kept on the balloon or dropped?

They fly via balloon to 80,000-100,000 feet where the balloon bursts and they drop. This blog post contains a photo showing a 3D flight path in Google Earth from a recent mission: http://jpaerospace.com/blog/?p=5864 A flight is typically 2 hrs climbing and about 30 min descent. We have been flying pongsat missions every few months, so make yours and send it our way!

chaffeem: Our next scheduled flight will be in April. However, that is tentative, and things like weather, funds, and pop-up sponsors wanting a flight tomorrow could change that.

FowThingies: there actually have been some pokeball colored pongsats.

When is the next flight going to be?  I can't find it on the website you provided.

Pokemon - Gotta Catch 'm all!

Nice project ;)

Very cool. Keep up the great work. This will help define the path for many kids I'm sure.

Hey Drew,
Don't forget the quick shout out to your sister program!