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I remember hearing a story from some two decades ago, about a publicity stunt by one of the two - can't remember which - Pepsi or Coca-Cola.

The action was allegedly deployment of a gigantic balloon bearing the company's logo into Earth orbit, for publicity/advertisement purposes.

I can't give more details, as I only heard about as much. I don't even remember the source but I'm fairly sure it wasn't a very authoritative one - likely word on mouth. I can't find any references to the event so it's possible it was merely an urban legend or some other event misshapen by retelling. Thus the question - can anyone confirm or rebuke the story?

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Yes, this was done during the EO-21 mission via a spacewalk from Mir in May 1996.

enter image description here

The deployment was filmed (or videotaped) for use in a TV commercial. The balloon was not intended to be visible directly from the surface of the Earth.

Additional info here.

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  • $\begingroup$ ... of course that happened on a Russian mission.... $\endgroup$ – Tristan Mar 22 '17 at 20:43
  • $\begingroup$ Hey, the US had the space coke machine. Several times. space.stackexchange.com/questions/10350/… Everybody likes money. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Mar 22 '17 at 21:28
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, but there was presumably some "science" involved in that. I recall a payload rejection criteria from the early shuttle days using the terms "crassly commercial." $\endgroup$ – Tristan Mar 23 '17 at 13:46
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It would be kind of pointless - at least for a free-flying satellite. Even the largest objects in low earth orbit require a telescope, a good pass (location, lighting, weather, etc.) and no small amount of skill to even resolve the shape of the object. So the audience of such an advertisement would be extremely small.

Here's a great example of imaging ISS & Discovery with an 8" telescope. enter image description here

Image Credit: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2011/02/28/ridiculously-awesome-pic-of-discovery-and-the-iss-taken-from-the-ground/#.WGWO0LPSSeg

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  • $\begingroup$ Just as pointless as Felix Baumgartner's "Jump from space" done as Red Bull publicity stunt? At 39,000m he was likely even less visible. $\endgroup$ – SF. Dec 29 '16 at 22:46
  • $\begingroup$ shrug - I think there's a big difference. Having a person break an altitude record doing a jump like that is spectacular, interesting and accessible via video, etc. The only way an advertising satellite would be accessible to anyone would be via video, but it's not doing anything interesting other then just being there in space. If I want to watch something in space, video feeds from ISS are much more interesting. But I'm not in advertising, so who knows? Maybe coke could pay for product placement in ISS? $\endgroup$ – CoAstroGeek Dec 29 '16 at 23:06
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    $\begingroup$ A balloon a mile across in low earth orbit would appear as large as the Moon, and for a simple inflatable structure, "a mile across" isn't as difficult as it sounds. $\endgroup$ – Mark Dec 30 '16 at 3:09
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    $\begingroup$ A balloon a mile across would weigh an enormous amount. A quick and dirty calculation indicates that a spherical mylar balloon 25 microns thick and 1.6 km in diameter would way about 285 metric tons -- about half as much as the ISS. That is, of course, ignoring whatever gas you inflate it with. $\endgroup$ – Tristan Mar 22 '17 at 20:48

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