Near-space dreams come true

SRP grants launch learning to new heights

UPDATE: Watch Ch.3 news coverage of the launch, with video of the “SRP spaceman” flying at 70,000 ft

This morning, the European Space Agency (ESA) made history when its Rosetta spacecraft successfully landed on a comet after a 10-year journey of over 4 billion miles.

“Our ambitious Rosetta mission has secured a place in the history books: not only is it the first to rendezvous with and orbit a comet, but it is now also the first to deliver a lander to a comet’s surface,” noted Jean-Jacques Dordain, ESA’s Director General, on the ESA website.

As scientists across the world celebrate today’s milestone, let’s take a look at another high-flying project that lands a bit closer to home.

Students in Mike Vargas’ freshman physics class at Pinnacle High School in Phoenix recently conducted a near-space experiment by successfully launching a craft to a height of 70,000 ft and returning it safely to the ground.

A small military-grade helium weather balloon (five feet in diameter) carried the Styrofoam craft. The photo above shows the craft at 70,000 ft, with Lake Pleasant in the background, and a Lego figure attached – with a “P” for Pinnacle High School – standing behind an SRP logo in the foreground.

The experiment taught the students real-life physics lessons on speed, velocity, distance and acceleration, among others. They also studied weather reports and meteorological data to help predict where the craft would land.

Pinnacle High School used funds from SRP Learning Grants to get the project off the ground. According to Vargas, the students’ next mission in December will be even bigger and bolder.

“We’ll be using a larger balloon, a full-blown avionics package…and shooting to go up to 120 to 130 (thousand) feet,” Vargas said. “We’re getting really pumped!”

Godspeed to Pinnacle High School on their next near-space exploration!

If you know of a school that could use funding for similar educational programs, be sure to let them know about SRP Learning Grants. Applications are now being accepted online at

Adam Fuller

Adam Fuller

Adam lives in Tempe and works in SRP's Business Analyst Rotational Program, dabbling in corporate pricing, communications, social media and strategy. In his free time he likes to play guitar, run trails and compete in the occasional triathlon.

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