First test flight for balloon company


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The competition heats up: Worldview has successfully completed the first unmanned test flight of its stratospheric passenger balloon.

The flight brought a remote-controlled, balloon-borne craft up to a height of 120,000 feet (36.5 kilometers) and back down to 50,000 feet (15 kilometers). Then the craft was cut loose from the balloon and guided to a soft landing using an innovative parafoil.

The test over Roswell, New Mexico, marked a world record for the highest parafoil flight, World View said.

World View’s Tycho prototype is just one-tenth the size of the pressurized capsule that the Arizona-based company plans to build for its Voyager tours. But Tycho’s maiden voyage put the system’s aerodynamics to a valuable initial test, said Taber MacCallum, who is World View’s co-founder and chief technology officer (as well as Poynter’s husband).

While these balloon tourist flights won’t go as high as the suborbital flights planned by Virgin Galactic, XCOR, and others, they will last far far longer and cost a third the price. They have already sold out their first three flights.

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