COMMISSION A LAUNCH
► GOING ABOVE AND BEYOND, SETTING YOURSELF A WORLD APART
The sky is literally no limit if you're looking for a totally unique way to promote your business or institution, concluding with marketing material that has viral potential. In the past few years YouTube has been littered with videos of Lego men "in space", bobble heads, beer cans, and other sundry items hoisted to the edge of space on weather balloons and filmed using compact HD video cameras. A few large companies with foresight have even created slick promotions featuring their product or logo with the black sky of space and curvature of the Earth in the background. But you don't need the wallet of a large corporation to get similar high quality video and pictures from near space.
► WHAT'S "NEAR SPACE"?
Have you ever looked out the window of passenger jet and wondered at the black sky above? You've been staring into "near space". In 2012 parachutist Felix Baumgartner astonished the world when he leapt from a helium balloon lofted 128,000 feet over New Mexico, breaking a decades old record for highest jump. Video from the event clocked over 36 million views on YouTube. Safe inside a pressure suit, Baumgartner had entered the deadly environment known as near space, roughly the altitudes between 75,000 and 328,000 feet where air pressure reaches a near vacuum, temperatures drop to -60 degrees F or more, and radiation levels can be a hundred times higher than at sea level. A few spy planes can touch the lower reaches and a handful of rocket planes have passed right through it, but generally near space is most easily reached with a helium or hydrogen-filled balloon. The weather balloons used here for near space photography typically reach an altitude of 90,000 to 110,000 feet, though it's possible to send one up as high as 140,000 feet.
► HOW DOES IT WORK?
The first question to ask yourself is what do you want to promote? If it's simply a logo, then the process is fairly straightforward. If you're considering a product sample or other object, then understand that weight and size limitations apply. In order to comply with the most basic FAA rules, the balloon's payload weight can't exceed much more than that of a half-gallon of milk, and some of that room must be designated for the cameras and tracking equipment. If you think of a small bobble head or light-weight object no larger than a soda can, then that's about what we have to work with. If you have greater ambitions, there are still possibilities, but the planning and logistics become more complicated.
Whether it's a logo or some type of object, the way it works is as follows:
► WHAT WILL I GET?
The resulting video can look like this (even with the quality reduced by compression for display on the web):
111,998 feet over Arizona
114,343 feet over central Iowa
114,343 feet over central Iowa
100,000+ feet over the Badlands of South Dakota
108,674 feet over central Iowa
When the mission has concluded you will receive all the raw video in its native 1080p HD format. No editing services are provided.
► WHAT DO I NEED TO DO?
The specifications for your logo are straight forward. The higher the image quality, the better it will look on 1080p HD video. When printed your logo should range between 3 and 6 inches in width. The camera has a wide field of view, so despite the size, it will still fill a sizeable part of the screen. Once delivered via email in whatever file format is convenient, your logo will be printed and mounted on foam board, then attached to the end of a rod that sticks out from the side of the payload box. A camera faces the installation from inside the box. For the sake of redundancy, two complete installations of the logo or object will be installed at opposite ends of the payload box and filmed with two separate cameras. If desired, it's possible to film two different looking installations. Test footage will be supplied before the launch to make sure everything appears exactly as envisioned.
► WHAT WILL IT COST?
It's not easy to send a weather balloon over 100,000 feet into the stratosphere, track it for a hundred miles or more, then find and recover the payload on the ground. Part of ensuring success means travelling somewhere lightly populated with few trees and lots of roads. There are legal restrictions to consider as well. Parts of the Midwest and western US are especially ideal for launching weather balloons. Depending on your promotional goals you may also want certain places or types of terrain visible on the ground in the video. A typical mission may mean 2 -3 days on the road, but depending on the scope of the project travel expenses will vary. Bad weather or unworkable wind patterns can also create delays. Helium has been in short supply of late with prices sky rocketing and balloons large enough to lift a payload to the edge of space don't come cheap either.
Anyone who guarantees you a successful mission probably isn't being honest. It's important to consider the risks. So many variables are at play, there's always a chance the launch may not succeed, but that's where experience comes into play. As part of any agreement options are included to help mitigate your exposure.
► NEXT STEPS
A near space balloon launch can take weeks to arrange and is subject to the availability of helium and ideal weather conditions. If you have questions, would like more information, or want to discuss fulfilling your vision, please contact us using the form below. We look forward to hearing from you!