Plans for the word’s first balloon space flight are progressing smoothly, World View representatives have announced.
The private near-space exploration company, based in Tucson, Arizona, has successfully completed its first major flight test, which employed a miniature, 1:10 scale replica of its original spacecraft.
During the experiment, the scale-down model was lifted up to a height of 100,475 feet, it has been reported. As a result, it was determined that operating a commercial flight using a high-altitude balloon, and bringing it close to the edge of space is actually a feasible idea.
This boundary, known as the Karman line, separates our planet’s atmosphere from outer space and is at an altitude of around 100 kilometers (62 miles) above the Earth’s sea level.
While weather balloons can only rise up to a maximum of 39 kilometers (24 miles) before bursting, even getting near than height is significant.
Now, World View will enter a new stage of trials, which will involve full-scale tests of its unusual space balloon, which is in fact the size of a football stadium.
The upcoming tests will commerce later this year, and it is scheduled that they will continue throughout the next year as well. Researchers will use insight gained during the prior scaled-down flight in order to ensure that the required technology for such an endeavor is fully functional.
The ultimate goal is to launch commercial manned flights by 2017, offering anyone capable of paying the required fare the once in a lifetime opportunity to explore the edges of space, via balloon.
The flights will take off from Page, Arizona, which was also the location of the trials that have been conducted so far.
According to World View representatives, the balloon-powered spacecraft will provide space tourists with a comfortable journey, while being under the full control of the flight crew.
Lift-off is expected to unfold seamlessly, without any turbulence, and then the spacecraft will safely transition from helium balloon propulsion to aerodynamic lift.
The trip will be completed by shedding the balloon upon descent, when the pilots will be the ones to ensure the smooth landing of the capsule, using a newly developed proprietary parafoil system.
The spacecraft will also have a back-up autopilot system, aside from being controllable from the ground as well.
It has been revealed that the costs associated with being part of this historic commercial flight to space amount to approximately $75,000 per seat. There will be a total of 6 passengers on board, as well as 2 pilots.
The balloon-powered aircraft will even have WiFi and a mini-bar, and promises tourists near-space journeys lasting between one and two hours.
While outer space doesn’t actually begin until reaching an altitude of 62 miles, even a view from 100,000 feet (approximately 19 miles) is bound to be spectacular.
At that height, situated below suborbital space, the curvature of our planet is strikingly obvious, and the sky is pitch black.
Although the experience may not equal that of an astronaut, it’s still as close as an average individual can get to becoming an actual space explorer.
Other companies like Virgin Galactic are working on operating commercial space flights even beyond the Karman boundary, but costs for such a trip have been estimated at $250,000.
Image Source: World View