A balloon one-10th the size of the one that will lift people into space prepares to launch from the Page, Ariz., airport on Oct. 24. (World View)
“It behaved the way all the engineers thought it would behave,” co-founder Taber MacCallum said. The flight paves the way for full-scale testing by early next year.
Passengers – whom the company calls “voyagers” – will shell out $75,000 for the experience.
The journey will begin as a high-altitude balloon the size of a football stadium rises above a passenger compartment the size of a small private jet.
The Grand Canyon and the curvature of the Earth are seen from 100,000 feet up during the Oct. 24 test flight of an unmanned balloon. (World View)
“The capsule ascends about 1,000 feet a minute, so we’ll spend an hour and a half or more getting up to 100,000 feet,” MacCallum, the company’s chief technology officer, said.
“Just about then, the sun will be coming up and you’ll see amazing vistas of the rising sun over our planet. We will stay there for a couple of hours watching the amazing view and having the ultimate Facebook status update.”
Yes, the capsule will feature Wi-Fi along with a bar and a lavatory. It will carry six passengers and a crew of two.
In all, the trip will take four to six hours, which MacCallum thinks is a big plus over the shorter rocket rides that Virgin Galactic hopes to begin next year.
“I’m not sure that five minutes would really do it for me in the Virgin experience,” he said. “I want that [additional] time to contemplate what I’m seeing.”
MacCallum wouldn’t say how many people already have booked flights, but he said World View’s customers include entire families from around the world.
An artist's rendering shows the giant balloon and capsule that World View plans to deploy to carry people into space within a couple of years, assuming further tests prove successful. (World View)
The company is getting welcome exposure in this year’s Neiman Marcus Christmas Book.
“You can open up the catalog and buy a trip to space. Isn’t that fun?” MacCallum said.
The Neiman Marcus Exploration at the Edge of Space package is priced at $90,000 per person. Besides the flight, the package includes a “chase and recovery” adventure during 2016 testing, plus luxury accommodations.
Other commercial ventures to send ordinary citizens into space have experienced setbacks. On June 28, Elon Musk’s SpaceX rocket, taking supplies to the International Space Station, exploded over Florida. It was the third failure for this commercial space venture in less than a year.
But MacCallum is optimistic the first World View flight will launch as expected.
“I’m confident unless there’s a big surprise,” he said.
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