An Arizona start-up company says it has successfully completed its first small-scale test flight of a stratospheric balloon and capsule being developed to show tourists a space like view of the Earth from 19 miles (30 km) above ground.
Privately owned by World View, an offshoot of Paragon Space Development Corp, aims to start taking passengers to the edge of space in the Voyager vehicle by 2016, according to a company statement.
“We couldn’t be any more excited about the results from this test flight,” said Jane Poynter, chief executive officer of World View. “It represents a foundational achievement that moves us one step closer to offering a life-changing experience of our Voyagers.”
The company was able to get its first demonstration vehicle, a scale vehicle known as the Tycho, about one-tenth the planned size of the Voyager, off the ground for more than five hours during its maiden voyage June 18, the statement said.
The five-hour test flight, which launched from Roswell, New Mexico, involved taking the massive helium balloon and capsule to an altitude of 120,000 feet (36,600 meters) –which is about the height from which Austrian extreme skydiver Felix Baumgartner jumped in 2012.
Once the team was satisfied with its performance at that altitude, the test vehicle was brought down to 50,000 feet (15,200 meters), at which point it deployed a parafoil to bring it gently back to terra firma.
The craft launched from the Roswell International Air Center in Roswell, New Mexico, at 7:45 a.m. (and rose 120,000 feet or more than 22 miles (35 km) into the sky, the statement said.
It will be propelled by a 40 million cubic-foot (1.1 million cubic-meter) helium balloon and a steerable parafoil.
At $75,000 per ticket, the craft is expected initially to carry six passengers and two pilots on what the company describes as a peaceful, sailing like experience lasting about two hours and offering views of the Earth’s curvature against space. The Voyager will go twice as high as commercial jets.
The company is making its Tycho vehicle available immediately for commercial research use by private companies, educational institutions and government entities.