World View balloon explosion caused $200K in damage

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The explosion of one of World Views Stratollite balloons during a test flight in December caused about $200K damage at its Tucson launch site.

The company has begun an investigation into the incident, creating an independent panel of experts to review what happened.



  • brightdark

    Inflating the balloon with hydrogen gas in a populated area might not have been a wise choice.

  • Cotour

    This is an example of balloons filled with HHO gas.

    It must have been one heck of a sound at that scale.

  • Localfluff

    $200K sound like what this “independent panel” and other lawyers will cost, regardless of any material damage. Your laws need to be simplified. Every ape knows right from wrong and what’s left, it isn’t all that hard to do.

  • Kirk

    Cotour’s link to HHO gas (stoichiometric 2:1 H2/O2) balloon explosions are true explosions, but if you ignite a balloon filled with pure hydrogen it should burn rapidly, but not explode. Here’s a video of some Limeys setting fire to hydrogen balloons in the theater of the Royal Institution in London, generating impressive fireballs but without the sound and force of an explosion.

    I wish we have better video of the World View; I think the short clip shown in this newscast is all we have:

    I suspect that when their balloon ruptured, a some of the hydrogen gas had a chance to escape and mix with the atmosphere above the balloon before the static spark occurred. That gas mix exploded and was responsible for the noise and shock damage, and the remaining hydrogen in the balloon didn’t explode but deflagrated, creating the more impressive several-second fireball, but not contributing to the noise and shock damage. An important question will be whether even more hydrogen would have exploded had the rupture been larger or had the spark occurred a few seconds later. Sounds like a difficult gas mixing problem.

    Interesting to see that Wayne Hale is leading the investigation. I just checked his blog and see that his most recent post is from July of last year.

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