PongSat 7521: Adhesive tape at high altitude

PongSat 7521 returned home today.

Looked pretty much intact.

This was an informal experiment to address the question: How do various types of adhesive tape stand up to the high altitude environment? (After all, PongSats are typically held together with a strip of tape. Does it matter what kind of tape?)

This PongSat was on one of four balloon flights, Away 68 through 72. I don’t know which one. The flights reached peak altitudes of 18,639 to 30,429 meters. (JP Aerospace writes, “We suspect we had a bad batch of balloons. All the altitude [sic] were very high but much lower than projected.”) It probably saw minimum temperatures of –50 to –60°C, pressures of a few percent of an atmosphere, and radiation exposure due to cosmic rays at about 20 times the rate at sea level.

Inside the PongSat was my test apparatus: A chunk of PVC pipe with samples of several types of adhesive tape stuck to it. More specifically: Scotch Magic Tape, duct tape, aluminum foil tape, blue painter’s tape, and electrical tape. Even more specifically, I wrote down brand names and numbers. Somewhere.


I’d kept a duplicate payload in my desk drawer. I examined both, pulling back the tape samples and evaluating strength and adhesion, and looking for any other differences between the two.


And I didn’t notice any. The two sets of samples still seemed to be more or less identical. Conclusion: None of these adhesive tapes were permanently affected in any significant way by the high altitude environment.


So use whatever tape you like for your next PongSat. It’ll probably work fine.





8 thoughts on “PongSat 7521: Adhesive tape at high altitude

  1. How did you account for temperature in your experiment?It is well known that extreme temps affect adhesion for pressure-applied tapes. Unless you float a climate controlled container to high altitude, I don’t know how get around making conclusions regarding altitude only as the variable affecting adhesion.


    1. In my conclusions I used the phrase “high altitude environment”, intending to convey the full spectrum of factors associated with high altitude — low temperature, low barometric pressure, increased cosmic ray flux, and so on — as opposed to just the altitude itself (which really should have no effect at all). I make no pretense of having separated out effects due to one or another of these factors… especially since I didn’t observe any significant effects at all.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s