Tag Archives: Space Balloon

Slipping the Surly Bonds in a Space Balloon

Balloon in Space

I’ve written posts in the past regarding World View Enterprises, Inc.’s, plans to get a balloon to “near-space.”  Such plans are decent and less expensive alternatives to riding on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip Two.  At least until XCOR Aerospace gets its act together.  Most recently, I wrote about World View’s design challenge, which just ended this week.  But on June 18, the company actually flew one of their very small balloon prototypes on a test run.  You can see a video with excerpts from the test below, thanks to Geobeat.

According to this Space.com article, the balloon floated 120,000 feet above the Earth’s surface.  Then it floated down to only 50,000 feet above the Earth’s surface when a parafoil brought it down to Earth safely.  It took a few pictures during the flight and the whole test lasted only five hours.  The post notes that equipment tested were things like the ground equipment (probably communications, GPS tracking, and such), the guided landing system, and a backup parafoil.

It’s a simple but neat idea.  Unfortunately, it still won’t garner World View’s passengers any “astronaut wings” because the balloon and gondola won’t be going high enough above the Earth.  I still also must wonder about the very narrow customer segment this is aimed at.  The advertised price to ride in this high-tech space balloon is $75,000.  That’s a very high price, even if it’s less than the cost of Virgin Galactic’s $200,000 per seat.  I would definitely want to earn astronaut wings for $75,000.  But as I’ve noted before, if a person has health problems, such as a heart condition, or just doesn’t like all the noise and acceleration of riding on the front of a rocket–even if its shaped somewhat like an airplane.

At least World View is making more concrete progress with this idea.  And while they didn’t mention to Space.com’s writers whether their tests of the equipment were successful, they probably learned a lot with this test flight.  No word on whether there’s a bathroom on board.  It’s gonna be a long flight either way.

 

 

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Leave Your Mark on Space

Balloon in Space

Your design here?

In an earlier post, “Flying In a Space Balloon,” I talked about World View Enterprises (not to be confused with DigitalGlobe’s WorldView satellites) and their “cheap” space seats:  $75,000.  It turns out World View would love to have someone create a design for them.  One that a person would be proud to “display in a home.”  To encourage design submissions, World View is backing a contest which will choose the best design and award a prize.

The design winner gets $500 in cash and tickets for two on the Inaugural Voyager Gala (so potentially a $150,000 value).  There are a few design guidelines here.  World View would love for the design to “visually align with and speak to the World View brand.”  And of course for a designer to do that, they encourage the potential winners to take a look at their site and figure out what that brand is.

Sadly, it’s only open to US legal residents, and those residents need to be 18 years or older.  The contest is currently going on, and ends at 11:59:59 Eastern Standard Time on June 23, 2014.  If you meet those criteria and have some good design chops, it might be a great opportunity to ride in a space balloon.  Go to this page to sign up and submit your design.

For those who don’t know, World View is a space balloon-ride.  Space is kind of flexible when talking about balloon rides, because the World View balloon will only take passengers up to 19 miles above the Earth.  But it sounds like the passengers will be infinitely more comfortable in such a ride.  And they could be wearing a polo with your design.

 

Flying in a Space Balloon.

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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..