World View Tests High Altitude Balloon for Future Commercial Flights

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WASHINGTON — A company developing a balloon system to carry people and experiments to the edge of space completed a key flight test Oct. 24.

Tucson, Arizona-based World View flew a balloon carrying a subscale replica of its passenger cabin to an altitude of more than 30,600 meters in a test flight launched from Page, Arizona. The cabin separated from the balloon and glided back to the ground using a parafoil.

While the test flew only a 10-percent scale replica of the planned capsule, the company said the test flight demonstrated a number of key technologies needed for the full-sized vehicle, including the ability to lift off gently, separate the capsule from the balloon, and glide to a landing.

“While each individual system has been analyzed and extensively tested in previous test flights, this significant milestone allowed us to test and prove all critical flight systems at once,” said Taber MacCallum, co-founder and chief technology officer of World View, in an Oct. 26 statement. “Now we’re ready for the next major phase of development: full scale system testing.”

World View said the successful test keeps the company on schedule to begin commercial flights in 2017. The company plans to carry six customers at a time on flights, spending up to two hours at an altitude of 30 kilometers before descending back to Earth. The flights, which the company notes includes Internet access and a bar, sell for $75,000 per ticket.

The company is using the same balloon technology to sell flights for research payloads. World View is part of NASA’s Flight Opportunities program that offers flights on balloons, parabolic aircraft, and suborbital vehicles to test technologies. World View flew its first balloon flight for Flight Opportunities in March.