Tag Archives: Stratollite

World View launches first balloon flight since explosion, raises $26.5 million

Capitalism in space: World View today launched its first Stratollite balloon flight since one exploded on December 19 as it was being prepared for launch.

The flight was commissioned by the NASA Flight Opportunities program office for two principal customers, the NASA Ames Research Center and Space Environment Technologies, both of which are studying radiation detection and its energy levels at different altitudes. The balloon vehicle is expected to gather data and stay aloft for less than 24 hours, depending on winds and landing conditions, a World View spokesman said.

More important, the company announced that it had raised $26.5 million in investment capital. All told, it is estimated that the company has raised $48.5 million in three rounds of fund-raising.

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Stratollite completes five day balloon test flight

Capitalism in space: World View’s first test flight of its stratollite high altitude balloon out of its Tucson launch site has successfully achieved a five day mission.

The vehicle hovered between 55,000 and 75,000 feet, while successfully testing out equipment designed to steer the balloon and keep it relatively stable at the same spot. Onboard were a 50.6-megapixel Canon EOS 5DS camera to do Earth observations, as well as communications equipment from the US military’s Southern Command. The military is interested in using the stratollite to look for human and drug trafficking, as well as maritime piracy.

World View says it’s going to bring down the stratollite sometime today, after hitting all of its critical milestones. “This is an enormous leap in our development program and we are certain the stratollite is going to forge a new path in how we observe, react to and collect data about our planet,” Jane Poynter, CEO of World View, said in a statement.

It is pretty clear that World View has shifted its focus from high altitude tourist flights in a balloon to high altitude reconnaissance and research flights, suggesting that they found the customer demand for the tourist flights at $75,000 each to be weak.

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World View completes first Stratollite balloon launch from Tucson spaceport

Capitalism in space: World View today successfully completed the first launch from its Tucson spaceport of one of its Stratollite high altitude balloons.

None of the stories I have found have provided any real detail about the flight, so it is unclear what they accomplished, other than to demonstrate they can launch from the spaceport.

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World View test balloon flight cut short due to leak

The first test flight of World View’s Stratollite balloon, planned for 4 days, was ended after only 17 hours because of a leak in the balloon.

Though the mission was the longest yet for the balloon, and though they managed to test the attitude control, communications, and solar power systems, they need to find out why the balloon did not hold pressure as expected before they can begin flying missions lasting from months to even a year.

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KFC pays to put chicken sandwich on four day World View shakedown flight

Capitalism in space: A publicity stunt by Kentucky Fried Chicken to sell a new chicken sandwich will help pay for the the first long shakedown of World View’s Stratollite balloon.

For World View Enterprises, the flight is expected to serve as a four-day shakedown cruise for its “Stratollite” system, which could eventually send military and commercial imaging payloads to the edge of the atmosphere for months at a time. “When KFC first brought this to us, we had a good chuckle,” World View CEO Jane Poynter told reporters during a teleconference today. But then the Arizona-based company realized there could be a serious point behind the project. “If you can fly a chicken sandwich to the edge of space … you can fly really just about anything,” Poynter said.

Besides, the payment that KFC is providing for the publicity will cover the cost of the test flight, including the expense of beaming down live HD video from a height of 60,000 to 75,000 feet, Poynter said.

Neither she nor KFC brand communications director George Felix would say precisely how much the fast-food chain is paying, but Felix said “we’re fully confident that this is going to be worth every penny.” For reference, NASA has paid World View as much as $440,000 for balloon test flights.

What is interesting to me is how World View appears to have significantly backed off its effort to sell and fly tourists on a balloon.

When World View was founded in 2013, the company’s main objective was to provide hours-long tours to the stratosphere in a pressurized Voyager capsule for $75,000 a ticket. Since then, World View has pivoted to the Stratollite concept, but it still intends to fly people someday. “We’re actually making huge progress,” Poynter said.

Poynter is no longer giving out a timetable for the start of Voyager tours, but she said two more Stratollite missions are scheduled for this summer. MacCallum, who is Poynter’s husband, said a full-scale mass simulator for the Voyager capsule is due to be flown by the end of the year.

All in all, the suborbital space tourism business appears, at least for now, to be fading, overwhelmed by the new and growing orbital launch industry.

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