Science Fairs Just Got A Lot More Fun: This Company Will Let Kids Send Experiments To Space

Satellite technology is becoming so accessible that even kids are doing it.

Science Fairs Just Got A Lot More Fun: This Company Will Let Kids Send Experiments To Space
[Images: NASA]

Consider this: Tiny satellites are becoming so ubiquitous that there is now a startup dedicated to giving students access to these satellites so they can conduct space experiments. This company, Ardusat, has a partnership with satellite data company Spire to get an “education payload” on every satellite that Spire launches.


But first, Ardusat needs to do some testing. On April 4, the company will launch a high-altitude balloon filled with science experiments from the winners of the AstroSat Challenge–a new yearly program that asks schools, science clubs, and other student groups to submit experiment ideas for a free trip to space.

For this first competition, Ardusat selected 15 winners, including an astronomy club in Pennsylvania, a Boy Scout troop in California, and a group of high school students in Ohio.

The experiments are diverse. One group, for example, is measuring how much UV light the atmosphere blocks. Another wants to see if the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is growing or shifting in any way. None of the groups is sending up physical experiments to space, however. “Spire collects datasets based on code they set up. It’s the benefits without the costs. That’s why we’re able to make this so readily,” says Sunny Washington, president of Ardusat. “We’re just restricted by data download. The longest experiments will probably run about a week.”

Some of the experiments will take some time. A satellite takes 96 minutes to circle the planet, and certain projects depend on specific readings and locations.

The competition winners will get a free ride to space, but normally the Ardusat “classroom launch pad” kit costs $2,500. That includes versions of satellite sensors that can be used in the classroom, as well as access to the real thing. “Space is absolutely fascinating, but there are a lot of applications with the sensors that they can use in the classroom, like taking an accelerometer and attaching it to an egg-drop experiment,” says Washington.

Ardusat plans to start running experiments in space this coming fall.

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.