Abstract Drag on a sphere and its wake in a periodically pulsating flow were investigated experimentally. Measurements were made at Reynolds numbers in the range 8000 < Re < 16,000. Results showed that the flow acceleration increases the drag as the existing theories for inviscid and low Re flows indicate. Quantitatively, the present drag data agree with the empirical formula given by Odar [ J. Fluid Mech. 25, 591–592 (1966)], although the Re which Odar's formula uses is much lower than those used here. It was found that the wake region is wider and the turbulent intensity in the wake is stronger during the period of deceleration than during acceleration.