An image from Sunrise Soar II, taken at 6:48am on August 7, 2010.
This site is dedicated to PROJECT SOAR, an ongoing series of high altitude balloon launches with the aim of photographing the edge of space on a small budget.
On July 17, 2010, our team embarked on an ambitious project: Launch a high altitude balloon carrying two cameras to capture sunrise from the edge of space, all with a budget of just a few hundred dollars.
The first capsule was launched from San Marcos, TX. It flew high and far, reaching an estimated altitude of 120,000 feet and traveling a distance of 80 miles before touching down in the rugged Texas Hill Country. Despite the use of a GPS-equipped cell phone tracking unit, the team was unable to locate the capsule in the difficult terrain. The images it captured would not be seen until September 6, when the capsule was located by the land's new owner.
Undaunted by the initial failure to locate the first mission's capsule, the team moved forward and reconvened in San Marcos to launch Sunrise Soar II on August 7, 2010. This time, redundant GPS tracking devices led to a prompt recovery just hours after launch. Sunrise Soar II reached an estimated altitude of 80,000 feet and flew 30 miles. The images it returned of the sun rising over the Earth's surface were breathtaking.
On August 16, the team launched a third mission, Sunrise Soar III, again from San Marcos. Using the same procedures that led to the success of Sunrise Soar II, the team recovered the capsule on the same day, and once again the images were stunning. Sunrise Soar III ascended to an estimated altitude of 100,000 feet and traveled 40 miles.
With three successful missions in the space of two months, the team became confident in our techniques. We've since launched five more successful missions. We are currently exploring options for additional flights, each of which will attempt a unique angle on high altitude photography.
Explore our galleries to see images of the preparation, launch, flight and recovery of these missions.
Want to start your own high altitude balloon project? We recommend reading our detailed writeup documenting the second mission. Our findings have assisted educators and enthusiasts across the country in launching successful flights of their own.