Supporting Research Through Online Funding

February 1st, 2021

online funding

You may have noticed that we have really upped our online commercial presence. We’ve had an online store since the mid 80’s however it has only been a minor part of the funding model. With the pandemic our tradition business of high altitude payloads and TV production has tanked. No funding  = no research.

What to do?

As the saying goes, “Go where the money is”.  The online economy is booming.

The internet is gushing with news stories, posts and blogs about folks bringing in millions of dollars via ecommerce. The hype to reality ratio seems pretty steep, however enough real information is out there indicating it has potential.

We’ve jumped completely in.  We are all across twitter, linkedin, Facebook and Instagram. We have several online stores and are working YouTube. Twitch and TikTok are not far behind.

I get a lot feedback (even from our own team) that it is not dignified. We want to be NASA. Not some guy in a tee shirt saying “Hi, click to subscribe” on a YouTube video.  I hate to say it but aerospace tends to be a bit arrogant finance wise and having the humbling experience of acknowledging that we are a business and need to pitch and sell may not be a bad thing.

Can it be done it? Is it worth it? The answer is I don’t know. We are going to find out.

Make no mistake, this is work. You hear a lot about passive income, but I’ve yet to find it. For this to work, you need to put in the time.

As a space professional be prepared to be appalled. The red wire is not always power. There are no standards, each site calls the same thing something different. The market is not a logical creature. It’s moody Godzilla. An action that is absolutely vital in one online community will be the death nail for another. The good news is elementary school rules apply. Read the instruction. This is a very instruction rich environment.

This is what we’re doing so far.

Shopify

https://dark-sky-market.myshopify.com/

This is where our store is. This is where the shirts, books and patches are sold. The old days of having your store on your own website are gone. Store providers like Shopify eliminate the need for your own site. We use “Print on Demand” for a lot of the products. This means you don’t have the upfront production costs. It also eliminates most of the issues of getting the product to your customer. You pay a price for the service, however the fulfillment services can usually do it cheaper then you could. We’ve also put our traditional products on the store. You can now buy flights to 100,000 feet there.

YouTube

https://www.youtube.com/user/johnmpowell/videos

YouTube is a great driver for your store and can generate its own income. It’s simple; when YouTube runs an ad on your video they pay you a small (very) part of the revenue.  The catch is that you need 1000 people to subscribe to your YouTube channel to qualify.

Etsy

https://www.etsy.com/shop/SpaceStationBazaar

This is where our other store is. One store or outlet is not enough. Etsy had the advantage that it brings its own traffic (somewhat).

Red Bubble

https://www.redbubble.com/people/spacefleamarket/shop

This is an odd one. You both have no products and millions of products. You upload your images and customers can put them on shirts, sticks, mugs, literally thousands of things.

Patreon

https://www.patreon.com/jpaerospace

Did you want to be your own public Television station? Patreon is a bit like that. Folks sign up for monthly reoccurring donations to support your work.

Social Media

Social media is the secret sauce that makes all this work. People need to go to your store. Social media is what sends them there. The great part about social media is that forces you to get your act together and explain yourself. It makes you perfect a new 30 second elevator pitch every day. Focus on the big ones, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Instagram.

Raising money is not all about raising money. It may seem odd to say ‘don’t do it just for the money’ in an article about fundraising, but it’s true. This is only worth it if it builds to your existing image/brand/reputation. In this world exposure is critical whether you are a company or a research group. All these things that bring in money also bring in exposure. Done right online funding folds directly into your long term marketing. Plan for that at the start.

I am skeptical by nature. I don’t believe this is the end all funding source for research projects. However, I do think it can be a meaningful part of the mix. Do you think an investor or grant provider would be impressed if you could say that your facilities costs are already taken care of?

We’re just starting out with this. Currently it’s working well enough to pay the power bill. We’re hopeful we will have successes and for sure we’ll make some mistakes. We are figuring this out as we go. I’ll post what we find, good and bad. Check back here for the blow by blow.

JP

Edge of Space Ads Available on Next Flight

September 11th, 2020

Looking for some non Covid drama for ad campaign or announcement? Space for your image available on the Away 131 high altitude balloon flight.

Check out Edge of Space Ads at the Dark Sky Market:

https://dark-sky-market.myshopify.com/collections/image-at-the-edge-of-space

Here are some samples from previous flights:

Mission Announcement Thrive!

September 8th, 2020

Our next flight will be Away 131. We are calling this mission Thrive! We don’t want to just get by during these times. We want to climb, excel and thrive! Lift off is on May 2, 2021.

This will be a high altitude balloon flight running to 100,000 feet. This mission will be loaded.

Away 131 will carry PongSats, MiniCubes, CubeSats, Edge of Space Ads and high altitude airship hardware tests.

Are you looking to fly? There are 9 MiniCube spaces left.    For info: http://www.jpaerospace.com/minicube/index.html

Need a dramatic ad image for your business? Check out our Edge of Space Adshttps://dark-sky-market.myshopify.com/collections/image-at-the-edge-of-space

Do you have a CubeSat just stilling on a shelf? Email me at jpowell@jpaerospace.com and let’s get it in the air!

Want to join in with the official Away 131 flight shirt?  Check it out at the Dark Sky Market! https://dark-sky-market.myshopify.com/collections/frontpage/products/away-130-mission-shirt

So get your mask on, social distance and leap with us to the edge of space.

JP

JP’s Soap Box

August 14th, 2020

Don’t just test in the environment, develop there. That way every system, every part and the person that created them has a flight history.

Pics are of some of our valve work.

PongSat is now it’s own Nonprofit Organization

August 4th, 2020

From the press release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Rancho Cordova, CA  August 4, 2020  -  An organization in California is planning to fly a million ping pong balls to the edge of space. Over 18,000 have already flown.

All the world’s space programs combined have not flown as many student experiments as a little know California aerospace company, JP Aerospace. Now after 18 years the program called the PongSat Flight Program has become its own nonprofit, setting its sights on flying a million student projects to the edge of space, all inside ping pong balls.

What is a PongSat?

A PongSat is an experiment that fits inside of a ping pong ball. These ping pong ball ‘satellites’ are carried to the edge of space by high altitude balloon. There the PongSats experience the space environment: cosmic rays, vacuum, extreme cold and even zero gravity on the descent.

The PongSats stay with the balloon platform. After landing they are returned to the student. Students get excited about science and engineering by actually doing it. “We have 7th graders with more mission experience than adult researchers in the field.” Says John Powell, President of the PongSat Flight Program.

PongSat is a completely free program, open to anyone.

PongSats gives students the chance to thrive during Covid. With science classrooms closed PongSat is more important than ever. We have been able to conduct safe flights with a minimum team all masked up and social distancing. PongSats made at home can be the inspiration to keep science education alive and to even thrive.

PongSats can be as simple or as complex as the student wants. Whether carrying a marshmallow to see if it puffs up in the vacuum of near space or an entire sophisticated satellite in miniature, PongSats creates motivation, drive and passion in their creators. There are endless possibilities for experiments that can fit inside a ping pong ball. PongSat carry seeds to see if exposure to cosmic rays effect their growth (it does!). They have also carried cameras, sensors,  GPS’s and even LEGO mini-figures.

Over 80,000 students have participated in PongSat flying over 18,000 unique experiments.

For more information:  https://www.pongsat.org

JP Aerospace, a volunteer based space program, created the PongSat program in 2002. It started out with 14 students. Excitement about the program exploded. Every month requests for tens of thousands of requests to fly are received. With new PongSat nonprofit organization we will fly them all.

PongSat as its own nonprofit entity has a stronger foundation. It means we can fly more PongSats , outreach to more students and continue to hurl humanity toward space one ping pong ball at a time.

“I’m convinced that the first person to walk on Mars is out there and they have flown a PongSat.”  John Powell, President, The PongSat flight Program.

PongSat Flight Program is a California 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation.

Airship Valve Experiment Two

July 16th, 2020

The pneumatic valve experiment aboard Away 130. This is on going development for the new helium valve for the Ascender high altitude airship. It’s test flight 2 for the system.

The whole mix of other things on the deck are what paid for it all.

Launch of Away 130 from Above

July 16th, 2020

Away 130 heading to the edge of space. Drones eye view.