Achieving Orbit

Add to List
Go to Activity


In this Engineering Design Challenge activity, learners will use balloons to investigate how a multi-stage rocket, like that used in the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) mission, can propel a satellite to a specific orbit. Participants will construct a two-stage balloon rocket that will be required to reach a particular location on the balloon track, simulating the proper orbit to be reached by the IBEX satellite. If you need an audio version of this material, the file is compatible with screen reading software such as Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Quick Guide

  • Preparation Time: 5 to 10 minutes
  • Learning Time: 10 to 30 minutes
  • Estimated materials cost: $1 - $5 per student
  • Age Range: Ages 8 - adult
  • Language: English

Materials List (per student)

  • two long balloons that can inflate to approximately 1' (30 cm) long; Note: Do not use animal shape twist balloons
  • 20' (6 meters) of vinyl craft lacing, any bright color
  • two 4" (10 cm) long plastic, non-bendable straws
  • masking tape
  • one 3" (8 cm) rubber band that is at least 1/8" (0.25cm) wide
  • one 1.25 inch (3 cm) binder clip
  • hand-operated balloon pump

Informal Categories

  • Model Building
  • Toys
  • Transportation


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Astronomy
      • Probes, Satellites and Spacecraft
  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Aerospace Engineering
    • Technology
      • Transportation
  • Physical Sciences
    • Motion and Forces
      • Gravity
      • Momentum and Velocity
      • Acceleration
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
  • The Nature of Technology
    • Technology and Society
      • Impacts of Technology
    • The Design Process
      • Problem Solving
      • Troubleshooting and Maintenance
Place and Time


  • IBEX Mission Launch Date
  • Date: October 19, 2008

To use this activity learners need to

  • see
  • be mobile
  • touch

Learning styles supported

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities

Components that are part of this resource

Includes assessments for student learning:




All Rights Reserved, NASA,

Funding sources

  • NASA



Login or register to post comments