High-altitude balloons prepared by Civil Air Patrol cadets across the U.S. will be launched Aug. 21 from central Indiana to the edge of space as part of a livestreamed nationwide science challenge.
CAP’s aerospace education team created the High-Altitude Balloon Challenge in partnership with StratoStar, a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) project-based learning company in Indiana.
Livestreaming is scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m. Eastern on the CAP Aerospace Education YouTube channel operated by Capt. Bob Roberts, the challenge’s project director and the South Carolina Wing’s director of aerospace education.
CAP is using StratoStar’s SHARE (Student High Altitude Research Experience) program and digital learning platform to support thousands of cadets in developing 40-gram science projects that fit into specially designed SHARE capsules. The launch will be conducted at Anderson Preparatory Academy in Anderson.
The cadet teams have developed one or more test experiments to fly in their capsules as payload on the balloons. They also prepared identical control experiment capsules to stay on the ground.
These experiment capsules were shipped to StratoStar headquarters to be launched on two high-altitude balloons with the goal of climbing over 100,000 feet above Earth.
Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Joe Kittinger, who used a spacesuit protoype in 1960 to became the first person to reach the edge of space, is serving as the event’s national program ambassador. Kittinger will present a Kittinger Cup and a $5,000 award to the CAP squadron that develops and executes the most thorough science project as part of the balloon challenge.
Kittinger will be joined by cadets in the Orlando, Florida, area while he provides live, virtual commentary on the launch.
The Indiana Wing will use its search and rescue capabilities during the launch event. Two CAP airplanes, a small Unmanned Aerial System (sUAS) operator and ground teams will jointly work with telemetry from StratoStar to film, locate and retrieve the balloons and payloads.
Local Indiana Wing cadets will help with the launch, retrieval and repacking of the SHARE capsules for return to the respective squadrons. StratoStar will also share the flight data from the launches for post-flight analysis by the cadets.
By Sept. 24, after experiment data is analyzed, results will be submitted via written reports and associated science documentary videos.
Each squadron also had the opportunity to design its own high-altitude challenge patch, an introductory video and a flight manifest of all items in their experiment capsules.
All Challenge components will be evaluated by a panel of judges, including Kittinger, to select the winning teams.
Presentation of the Kittinger Cup, the $5,000 grant and other recognition are scheduled for Oct. 6 on Roberts’ channel.
Here is a scene from the video cadets in the West Virginia Wing's Potomac Highlands Composite Squadron created during their preparations for the event.