I’ve mentioned in a previous post the possibility of using balloons in accomplishing a satellite’s work. Especially if the work can be done by the balloon more responsively, more effectively, and cheaply. If all three of those factors are present, then why not? It just makes sense. For World View Enterprises’ space balloon efforts, though, just achieving one out of three of those factors isn’t great.
Wouldn’t you like to ride in my beautiful balloon?
World View wants to send you to not-quite-space. And they want to do it with a balloon. That’s right–a space balloon ride. Their price of admission? $75,000. And that’s a problem. Sure, such a pricing strategy might seem reasonable when compared with Virgin Galactic’s sub-orbital rocket ride of $250,000 per seat. But it definitely starts looking a bit optimistic when compared with XCOR’s range of $95,000 to $100,000. Then, when and if Bristol Spaceplanes Limited’s crowdfunding plans come together for $8,000 to $33,000 seats, World View’s ticket fee will look downright pricey.
The thing is, there are some pros for World View’s space balloon ride in the immature space tourism market. A likely pro is for potential passengers who have heart problems: a slow ascent to the stars might just be way to fulfill a lifetime wish without killing themselves. And passengers don’t have to deal with weightlessness, so the “multi-color yawn” problem will be minimized. Also, just the idea of flying that high up in a balloon, without the frenetic energy of a rocket pushing into your spine, is very appealing.
…We could float among the stars together, you and I…just kidding!
But unlike the new sub-orbital rockets, World View’s balloon will only take their fancy gondola and passengers 19 miles (30 Km) above the amber waves of grain. So there won’t be any astronaut wings given out to passengers paying pricey passage passes. This might cause a few die-hard space geeks to give the ride a pass. The flight will also take a little longer going up and down. World View are estimating five to six hours per flight. And good luck knowing exactly where the balloon is going to land.
There’s also the price, which already is quite steep for regular people (like me and probably you). Throw in cheaper flights from other space tourism companies that will actually get a person “cosmo-cred,” and it’s obvious World View’s space balloon is serving a much different client base than those companies. It will be interesting to see how well they do. It would be better if their tickets were cheaper, but again, it depends on how successful World View is.
If you want a taste of the space balloon ride, watch a video of a dramatic enactment of the flight, just go to World View’s site. Up, up, and awaaayy..