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National CAP Cadet High Altitude Balloon Challenge



The 2022 High-Altitude Challenge for CAP cadets has begun! 

Teams can begin determining what science experiments they wish to try to fit inside their test tubes.  Test tubes in protective shipping boxes should be received by the end of May. (Although these were to be shipped 2 may, there is a vendor delay with the boxes so teams should receive tubes in boxes by end of May.)

Test tubes/vials/capsules:

  • Standard 50ml centrifuge tubes

Approximate dimensions are 30mm (outer diameter); 115mm length 

  • Have a cap, but are not pressurized

  • Will be in a container that is open to the atmosphere and sunlight when launching

  • Will be packed next to other tubes, so if there is an experiment that needs sun and radiation exposure, the experiment would need to be pushed toward the top of the tube

  • Each team will have a control test tube and a flight test tube- labeled as such when received


  • Any science experiment desired can be used as long as there is nothing flammable, live, or otherwise dangerous (as listed below) for launching in a test tube.

      - Must fit within provided 50ml capsule

      - No liquids

      - No food which requires refrigeration

      - No live vertebrates or invertebrates

      - No radioactive materials

      - No explosive materials

  • Find science experiment ideas by searching High Altitude Balloon Experiment Ideas.  One site is HERE

  • More than one experiment can fit in a tube as long as the 40g (total) weight limit is not exceeded (if exceeds weight limit, it cannot fly).(Weight includes capsule.)

  • Recommend putting individual experiments in their own small baggies before putting into the tube so it's easy to keep them organized.

  • Remember that both the control and flight test tubes should have the exact experiments and packing order for your challenge to be valid. 

2022 Challenge guidance is found on the liftoff event recording, HERE

Details of the 2022 HAB Challenge are found HERE. 


                                         2022 HAB Challenge Schedule of Events





 The Challenge requires several projects to be submitted for judging for the ultimate Col Kittinger Cup and a $5,000 award grant.


1- Prior to the high-altitude weather balloon flights in Indiana in August, each squadron team should create, pack, and ship to Indiana one or more science experiments to insert in the 50ml Challenge capsule; not weighing more than 40g. FedEx shipping boxes and labels are provided for each team. (Ship by 22 July.)

  • The team should also submit a 2-3 minute video made by the cadets that describes all science experiments included in the capsule. (Submit to by 22 July.)

  • Pre-launch video expectations and scoring rubric.  

  • $200 grant for winning pre-launch video.

2- Each squadron should submit either a hand drawn and/or digital mission patch to by 22 July.  

  • Mission patch expectations and scoring rubric.
  • $200 grant each for winning hand-drawn mission patch and winning digital mission patch. 

3- After the capsules are flown and returned to the squadrons for analysis, an after-action slide report of each science experiment is due to by 26 September. 

4- A culmination "documentary-style" 4-5 minute video made by the cadets is to be submitted that describes the entire Challenge process: the included experiments; the results of the experiments after the HAB launch; any collaborative efforts made with other groups/organizations/etc.; how the Challenge was beneficial to the cadets; how learning about Col Kittinger was of value to the cadets; and what the squadron would do with a $5,000 grant, if it was won. 

  • This video is due to by 26 September.
  • Post-launch documentary video expectations, guidance, and scoring rubric. 
  • $500 grant for winning video.

Additional grants for outstanding work:

  • Project of distinction: $400 grant
  • Honorable mention: $300 grant
  • Teamwork of distinction: $300 grant



CAP Volunteer magazine Spring 2022 issue HAB Challenge story HERE (to print) or, magazine spread pages HERE. 


CAP.NEWS article about the 2022 program lift-off HERE.


CAP YouTube video recap of 2021 balloon launch in Indiana HERE


The National High-Altitude Balloon Challenge Ambassador: 

Col Kittinger is a former fighter pilot and aeromedical high altitude researcher, amongst many other things. 

  • Col Kittinger is the first man to have traveled to the edge of space and the first to see the curvature of the earth from space!  See the video of his famed high altitude jump and the benefits to aerospace HERE. (2 min)

  • See the record-breaking Red Bull Stratos high altitude balloon jump with Col Kittinger as the consultant, guide, and commentator for Felix Baumgartner 's jump HERE. (8:22 min)

  • See Col Kittinger's interview for this National CAP HAB Challenge HERE. (57 min)


  • Col Joe Kittinger's autobiography, Come Up and Get Me! is available for purchase.        


2021 HAB Challenge Recap

View short video of the August 2021 launch and balloon burst at altitudes of 87,621 ft  and 103,057 ft before landing the payloads back on Earth. The experiments were shipped back to the squadrons where they completed experiment analyses and submitted the required documents to be eligible for the Kittinger Cup.

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2021 HAB Challenge Winners:

  • View the 2-min video of the 2021 National winning team encouraging other cadets to join the 2022 Challenge HERE.  

The 2021 winning team was announced 6 October from Orlando, FL, where the winning cadets met and were awarded the first Kittinger Cup and $5,000 prize from Col Joe Kittinger.  

  • See all winning team info in right menu column (or click HERE). 

  • The 1:45 hour awards ceremony is found on the video below, and includes important discussions about what the judges looked for when identifying winners of the Challenge categories. 

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See CAP.NEWS story about the 2021 National CAP High Altitude Balloon Challenge

"I just want to thank you for putting this challenge together.  My team has had a great time working on this.  They’ve really learned a lot about the science behind our experiments and have formed a strong bond in the process.  I hope that we are able to do this, or a similar challenge, again."


Captain Leslie Kneipfer, Commander and AEO

NER-MA-005 Bridgewater State University Composite Squadron

Thank you for allowing us to be a part of history. 


1st Lt Susan Morrison, AEO, MAR-NC-022 Burlington Composite Squadron


See 2021 Information for any historical info HERE. 



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