World View, Space Tourism Startup, to Offer Balloon Excursions to Stratosphere

An Arizona startup offers a balloon ride to the stratosphere.

An Arisona company invites everybody to enjoy space-like views from 19 miles above Earth. Photo: World View

World View, an offshoot of Paragon Space Development Corp., revealed its plans to start selling tickets at $75,000 per person within next months, confirms Chairwoman and President Jane Poynter.

The startup believes it will have an opportunity to begin flight tests of a demonstration vehicle within a few months in Arizona and could be flying passengers within three years, Poynter reveals.

When the service will be turned into life, it would allow to send to the stratosphere six passengers and two pilots in a pressurized capsule that is still under development.

As Reuters writes, the Federal Aviation Administration has determined it must meet the same safety requirements as a manned spacecraft orbiting Earth.

“At Paragon’s intended altitude, water and blood boil, and an unprotected person would rapidly experience fatal decompression,” the FAA, which controls all the commercial spaceflights in the United States, told reporters.

The capsules are expected to propel by “a 40 million cubic-foot (1.1 million cubic-meter) helium balloon and a steerable parafoil, an inflatable wing-shaped parachute,” the company says.

According to estimates and predictions, it will take them from 90 minutes to two hours to reach peak altitude, more than twice as high as where commercial jets fly.

Enjoying the sights of our planet will cost less than one-third of the $250,000 ride on SpaceShipTwo. It should be noted that about 650 people have put down deposits or paid for rides on the latter, which is undergoing testing at manufacturer Scaled Composites’ facility in Mojave, California.

Branson said last month that the company is getting prepared for the first flights which are scheduled for the next summer.

Virgin Galactic and others comapnies which specialize on space flights have shown that the luxury market has shifted from high-end goods to high-end experiences, Paragon co-founder and Chief Executive Taber MacCallum revealed in one of his interviews.

“(We) found we could put together a business plan that closed in a ticket price that is not too different from other luxury experiences, like a high-end safari and things like that,” MacCallum told reporters.

Meanwhile, the FAA letter reads that World View’s first launches as taking place from New Mexico’s Spaceport America, a commercial port whose anchor tenant is Virgin Galactic. Experts claim that the company is looking at several U.S. launch sites.

For the sake of addintional safety measures and for landing, a steerable parafoil will remain deployed and attached to the capsule throughout the ride, Poynter and MacCallum said.

“The balloon you’re under is the thickness of a dry cleaner bag. It’s very thin material by necessity to get you so high. That’s where the technical risk lies. The risks of decompression of the spacecraft or life-support systems failures are really pretty small. We’ve got lots of redundant systems and we can return to lower altitudes pretty quickly,” MacCallum said.

“There is a chance – and every once in a while you see in scientific ballooning – of a balloon failure. That’s really what took us to having this para-wing, or parafoil always open so that from just about any altitude the vehicle could safely glide back,” he added.

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