From science to commerce: how stratospheric balloon became a weapon for marketers

From science to commerce: how stratospheric balloon became a weapon for marketers

Food, alcoholic beverages and music albums are launched into space for advertising purposes all over the world. Now this idea was taken up by the Ukrainian project Cosmos Agency.

Space always attracted Philip Samarets. From his childhood, he dreamed of launching interplanetary ships. Now Philip is the head and the ideological inspirer of the Cosmos Agency project, which creates stratospheric balloons and offers Ukrainian brands the opportunity to shoot ads in the stratosphere.

Not in space yet, but far from the Earth

The stratosphere lies between 11 and 50 km from the Earth, while the “official” space starts from 100 km — in our country it remains exclusively a state’s domain. And the stratosphere is not formally the space, so flights there are not subject to such a strict state regulation.

In the stratosphere you can create incredible content. The appearance of the Earth from here differs little from the space landscape. The Cosmos Agency team made a comparison: people were shown the photos made from a stratospheric balloon at a height of 40 km and then the photos taken by astronauts from the International Space Station at a height of 250 km. As a result, nobody noticed any difference. In both kinds of photos, you can see Earth, space and stars, as well as a thin blue layer of the atmosphere between them.

For flights to the stratosphere, stratospheric balloons are used — large balloons with gas, usually hydrogen or helium, to which an electronics box and a parachute are attached. The conditions in the stratosphere are so similar to those in space, that the altitudinal launches of stratospheric balloons are called pre-cosmic.

From science to commerce: how stratospheric balloon became a weapon for marketers

The launch of a stratospheric balloon of the Ukrainian company Cosmos Agency
From: Fundamental Production

The first launches of stratospheric air balloons in the world took place in the 1930’s. Now it is a common practice for the countries of Europe and the United States: they launch meteorological probes, as well as equipment for small CubeSat satellites, when they need to test it, to the stratosphere.

Marketers have adopted stratospheric balloons too: in countries such as the United Kingdom and Japan, bottles of alcohol brands, photographs, music albums and other products, that the manufacturer wants to draw attention to, are launched into the sky. Abroad, even a service of dispersing ashes in the stratosphere has become rather popular. One of the main competitors of Cosmos Agency on the international scene is the English company Sent Into Space, which also makes commercial launches to the stratosphere. One of its advertising cases, for example, was as follows: the balloon has raised into the sky, and then threw to the ground two tickets for a football match between the teams “Arsenal” and “Aston Villa”. The fans only needed to find them.

From science to commerce: how stratospheric balloon became a weapon for marketers

One of the projects of the British company Sent Into Space — tickets in the stratosphere

Even in Ukraine there are examples of “space” marketing: in 2013, Yevhen Chernyak’s Global Spirits holding company launched a bottle of vodka of its brand “Khortytsa” to the stratosphere. However, nobody except for Cosmos Agency, is performing such launches systematically.

Request start up!

The stratospheric balloon, created in Cosmos Agency, raises objects weighing up to 1 kilogram to a height of up to 31 km, shoots videos, and then deflates and smoothly descends to the ground, throwing the parachute. The video is then available both from a flash card and through online broadcast. “This is a relatively simple construction. But for its realization we had to make a lot of effort,” — says Philip Samarets.

The fact is that stratospheric probes are classified as unmanned aerial vehicles, that is, a person cannot control the trajectory of their flight. In order to predict the route and the landing place of the stratospheric balloon, one takes into account the mass of the instrument, together with the exact time and place of its launch. To model the route, the NOAA GFS model, the Global Forecasting System of the National Center for Climatic Data of the USA, developed in Cambridge University, is utilized. And for the height tracking, precise positioning, as well as for some telemetry channels (speed, temperature overboard, coordinates), radio beacons operating at amateur radio frequencies are used during the flight.


The guys from Cosmos Agency managed to get the radio license for using such frequencies thanks to their “contagious” enthusiasm and understanding from the Ukrainian Amateur Radio League. “However, not all decision-makers are so optimistic about stratospheric balloons,” sadly says Philip. In Ukraine, as elsewhere in the world, it is necessary to obtain permission to launch air balloons from several authorities, including the State Aviation Service of Ukraine, State Enterprise “Ukrainian Air Traffic”, Boryspil Airport Flight Control Center, and the Ministry of Defense. “We had to spend a lot of time to convince everyone that our launches are controlled as much as possible and do not pose any danger to people. The place and time of each launch are separately agreed with all the listed authorities,” says Philip Samarets.

Art and business

Cosmos Agency launched its first stratospheric balloon in January 2018: Cosmos Agency logo printed on 3D-printer rose to the sky over Zhashkiv in Cherkasy region. During the second launch, which took place in February, in addition to the logo, the balloon has raised the printed photo of Leonid Kadeniuk, the first cosmonaut of independent Ukraine. The aim of these launches was to check the equipment. Currently, the project is working to obtain the permission from the Defense Ministry’s General Staff for aerial photography to make videos from the stratosphere and publish them.

From science to commerce: how stratospheric balloon became a weapon for marketers

The launch of a Cosmos Agency stratospheric balloon
From: Fundamental Production

Cosmos Agency plans their first commercial launches to take place in the fall. According to Philip Samarets, the company already has several potential customers — these are furniture and alcohol brands, and the customers of 486 Media digital agency, where he works as an art director.

In addition, the common art project “Art in Space” together with the Kyiv painter Andriy Datura is also scheduled for the autumn. The guys are going to raise a canvas into the stratosphere and paint on it there. A device for the application of paint to a canvas is still being designed.

Cosmos Agency buys all the necessary equipment for the launches online or manufactures it itself. In total, the team members have invested about $10,000 of their own funds into the project. According to Philip Samarets, all the expenses of the organization will be covered by several commercial launches. However, to work with confidence, the project needs about $50,000.

From: Fundamental Production

Cosmos Agency does not hurry to search for investors now. “At this stage, as long as possible, we would like to organize everything by ourselves. Perhaps in the future, when we come to the next level, we will need external investment,” explains Philip Samarets.

Managing Partner at Media Scope agency Andriy Krolenko believes that the success of the Cosmos Agency project will depend largely on cost of their services. “Non-standard ideas are always great. They refresh the view and the thoughts of the consumer, make it possible for the company to stand out in chaotic advertising noise,” — he says. The main thing is that these ideas should not be non-standard just for the sake of being non-standard. Each part of the business project should be cost-efficient, not just a “festival investment”. After all, the purpose of each advertising campaign and investment is sales growth and development of the customer’s business.

Currently, the State Space Agency of Ukraine is also interested in the project. In particular, the Agency plans to test the device for air pollution measuring during one of the next Cosmos Agency launches.