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2023 National HAB Challenge


The 2023 CAP National AE High-Altitude Balloon Challenge (HABC) for cadets revealed  the 2023 Kittinger Cup and $5,000 prize winner during the awards ceremony on Monday night, 23 October 2023. Capt Bob Roberts, the HABC Project Director, has a recording of the show on his  Aerospace Education YouTube channel.

  • See the 30-minute award ceremony video HERE

  • And... the winner of the 2023 Kittinger Cup is GLR-WI-183 Stevens Point Composite Squadron!  Congratulations!!!  See CAP.NEWS article about the winners and the entire program, found HERE


The winning team consisted of: 

  • Cadet Chief Master Sgt. Lily Schaefer
  • Cadet Senior Master Sgt. Barrett Dubos
  • Cadet Senior Airmen Alex Albright, Greyson Krepsky, and Micah Ritter

Team mentors were the squadron's  commander, 1st Lt. Ryan Vechinski; team facilitator, 2nd Lt. Jessica Schaefer; and aerospace education officer, Lt. Col. Peter Arnold.


A 2023 Recap:

  • The HABC teams shipped their experiment capsule boxes to the Anderson Preparatory Cadet Squadron in Anderson, Indiana, for the actual balloon launch on 5 August.

  • 115 cadet teams of about 950 total cadets worked for four months to create almost 1,000 science experiments which were launched on two weather balloons before reaching burst altitudes - both just over 100,000 feet. A third balloon launched a Lego shuttle model to retrieve video footage. 

  • Then, all capsule boxes were shipped back to the squadrons for the cadets to analyze the data for their experiments. The submissions of mission patches, pre and post launch videos, and science experiment report slides have been submitted and judged. 

  • This six-month HABC mission is culminated on Monday, 23 October, with the announcement of winners of each category, as well as the national winner of the Kittinger Cup and $5,000 prize donated by the Kittinger family.  (Additional award grant amounts are different this year due to a different funding level.) 


  • Balloon A had a burst altitude of 100,325 ft    

  • Balloon B had a burst altitude of 100,318 ft 

See each balloon's squadron team list HERE

  • All 22 July and 2 October deliverables (submitted via the Google doc links below) have been judged in preparation for the 23 October awards video show. 

The CAP National High-Altitude Balloon Challenge for Cadets is an internal program for cadet and/or composite squadrons.  

  • The HAB intro video with all info is found HERE. All info mentioned therein is found below. 

    • Each team should view the video and read all info below to ensure each team knows all guidelines. 

    • For any questions beyond what is explained below about specific challenge submissions to be judged, view the winning awards section in the right menu column.

The 22 March 2023 CAP PROPS article about the Challenge is found HERE

Read Why Stratospheric Balloons Offer Out of This World Opportunities- written 20 March 2023 by Near Space Labs

Who launches CAP's HAB Challenge balloons with cadets and the SAR team from the IN Wing?  NearSpace Education 


  • Standard 50ml centrifuge tubes
  • Approximate dimensions are 30mm (outer diameter); 115mm length 
  • Capsules have a screw-on cap, but are not pressurized
  • Will be launched as payload of a high-altitude balloon in a container that is not pressurized, and is open to the atmosphere and sunlight when launched
  • Will be packed next to other tubes in the payload container, 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 – each labeled as such so when received in Indiana by the HAB team will ensure the correct tube is launched
  • 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.
  • If there is something the HAB team needs to do to the test capsule before flight, EXPLICIT instructions need to be included in the capsule box.  (Note:  the HAB team can turn on power or something simple but nothing detailed or time-sensitive as these will be done the night before the launch.)
  • Remember that both the control and flight test tubes should have the exact experiments and packing order for your challenge to be valid. 
Questions not answered here? Contact

  Photos of the packages in which the capsules are placed as payloads on the balloons are below.  All capsules are exposed to the outside environment. 


Want to know more about the HAB Challenge Legacy Ambassador and Benefactor, Col Joe Kittinger who passed away on 9 December 2022?    See his obituary HERE.  

  • Watch the 2-minute video of Kittinger's famed high-altitude jump and the sustained benefits of that jump to aerospace HERE.   
  • Read his book, Come Up and Get Me
  • Celebrate his 2022 CAP Brewer Award for Outstanding Supporting Individual to CAP. 
  • Work to earn the coveted 2023 Kittinger Cup!  



 The Challenge requires several projects to be submitted for judging for the ultimate Col Kittinger Cup and a $5,000 award grant.  Those with top scores in all categories will be judged for the top award.  Several category awards will also be presented with unit grants provided by the Air & Space Forces Association


See the Deliverables Submission Dates, Scoring Rubrics, and Google doc submission form links below and HERE. 


Read all directions and scoring rubric guidance carefully to ensure each category meets highest standards. Pay close attention to the "Go-NO-Go" section at the top of each category's scoring rubric. 


1- Prior to the high-altitude weather balloon flights in Indiana on 5 August (or back-up launch date of 12 August) each squadron team is directed to create, pack, and ship one or more science experiments inserted in the 50ml Challenge capsule, not weighing more than 40g, in the shipping boxes and labels provided to each team.  (See test capsule instructions above.)

  • Ship date on package cannot be later than 22 July to have the teams' experiments accepted in Indiana for the actual launch.
  • Shipping labels will be provided to each team in their original HAB capsule box sent to them after registration. 
    • If the pre-prepared FedEx shipping label is MISPLACED/LOST, the team is responsible for shipping cost.  That address for shipment by 22 July is:

Anderson Prep Academy Cadet Squadron

Attention: Lt Michael Dean

101 West 29th Street

Anderson, IN 46016



2- By 22 July, the teams are also directed to submit a 2-2.5 minute pre-launch video - made by the cadets - to describe all science experiments included in the capsule. This should be submitted via the pre-launch video Google doc submission form.  Any accompanying music guidance is provided in the expectations and scoring rubric, below.  

  • Pre-launch video expectations and scoring rubric  

    • Following the "exemplary scoring rubric column" info will ensure all criteria of the pre-launch video is covered

  • $200 grant for winning pre-launch video

3- By 22 July each squadron is directed to submit EITHER (not both) a hand drawn or digitally-designed mission patch via the mission patch Google doc submission form.  Submit a photo or pdf of the mission patch.  Digitally-designed patch cannot be AI generated. The new CAP logo is required. 

  • Mission patch expectations and scoring rubric
    • Following the "exemplary scoring rubric column" info will ensure all criteria of the mission patch is covered
  • $200 grant each for winning hand-drawn mission patch and for winning digital mission patch

4- After the capsules' August HAB flight in Indiana, the boxes will be returned to the squadrons within 5 days. 

a. The squadron teams will then work on the analysis of their experiment(s). 

b. By 2 October, the squadron team will prepare ONE after-action slide report of their best science experiment to be submitted via the science slide Google doc submission form


IMPORTANT INFO to ensure science slide fills all requirements: 

  • Final science experiment slide for one best team experiment expectations and scoring rubric
    • Following the "exemplary scoring rubric column" info will ensure all criteria for the science slide is covered
  • Can be prepared and submitted on a PowerPoint or pdf slide
  • Should include background, hypothesis, methods/materials, procedures, results, data analysis, conclusion, impact and possible improvements, and references with squadron charter number/name--- much as sample slide below
  • $300 grant for most innovative science experiment with most well-done report slide (the most important aspect of the HABC to Col Kittinger)

5- By 2 October, a culmination "documentary-style" 4-5 minute video - made by the cadets - is to be submitted via post-launch video Google doc submission form that describes the entire Challenge process: the included experiments and associated results after the HAB launch; any collaborative efforts made with other groups/organizations/etc. (universities/schools, medical or science orgs, or other CAP units); how the Challenge was beneficial to the cadets; and what the squadron would do with a $5,000 grant, if it was won. (Music guidance for YouTube video found in expectations, guidance, and scoring rubric, below.)

  • Post-launch documentary video expectations, guidance, and scoring rubric
    • Following the "exemplary scoring rubric column" info will ensure all criteria of the documentary video are covered
  • $350 grant for winning documentary video

Additional unit grants will be selected by the judges and provided by the AFA. 

All 2022 award winners are still listed in the info box to the right.


2022 HAB Challenge historical page is found HERE  

The winner of the 2022 Col Joe Kittinger Cup, which included a $5,000 donation from Col Kittinger and autographed "Come Up and Get Me" books by Col Kittinger, was the MAR-VA-007 William P. Knight Composite Squadron. See team photo and team member names, below. 


MAR Commander, Col Eugene L. Egry, III

VA Wing Commander, Col Elizabeth Sydow

MAR-VA-007 Squadron Commander, Lt Les Flores


Team Adult Leaders:

Capt Ajay Sawant, AEO, and Lt Navin Sitoula


Cadet Team Members:

C/Capt Katherine Chung-Ting Ku

C/Capt Sarah Sitoula

C/Capt Rachel Chung-Chi Ku

C/2Lt Megan Ajay Sawant

C/1Lt Alisha Sitoula

C/CMSgt Neel Ajay Sawant

C/CMSgt Thomas Ye

C/TSgt Daniel Berberian                                               

Inaugural 2021 HAB Challenge historical page (with all winners and other info) is found HERE. 

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

"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, 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



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