Sometimes referred to as a “poor man’s satellite,” high-altitude balloons can serve as an inexpensive, practical invitation into a variety of near-space applications.­­­ This includes everything from bringing Internet access to remote areas to testing potential rocket components. A new aerospace startup, Rockzip Highballoons, recently started a Kickstarter crowdsourcing campaign to commercialize its first model of “highballoons” as floating space satellites.

Standard highballoons filled with helium can reach heights around 120,000 ft. in altitude, floating for months at a time. Rockzip’s current Pro Highballoon model has a float time of five-plus hours at a maximum altitude of 30,000 ft., is tetroon (tetrahedral) shaped, and measures 7 ft. wide edge to edge. Current applications include Internet coverage in remote areas (for example, Google’s Project Loon), space testbeds such as CubeSats, and hurricane tracking bots. Rockzip hopes that by commercializing the technology, highballoons could be used for things like crop inventory and yield production, sending cargo into space, and deforestation tracking in places like the Amazon rainforest.

Rockzip breaks “highballooning” down to five easy steps: build your payload (cameras, GPS, radio transmitters, etc.); fill it up; launch it; track it; and go pick it up wherever it lands. This makes them ideal for students, much like NASA’s CubeSat program, serving as inspiration to them regarding science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) applications and giving them an affordable venue to foster ideas. Rockzip’s Kickstarter campaign is also promoting a full-size beta prototype of its highballoon. The team hopes to raise $15,000 by mid-September in order to bring the Pro model into production.

Watch Rockzip’s campaign video below and click here to find out more and donate.