World View pivots to balloon-borne ‘Stratollites’

Image: World View balloon
World View is working on balloon-and-parafoil systems that could carry payloads into the stratosphere, as shown in this artist’s conception. (Credit: World View Enterprises)

World View Enterprises made a splash with its plans to send tourists up to the stratosphere, but now it has a more down-to-earth focus: using balloons to send up satellite-style payloads for months-long missions.

The tours are still part of the Arizona-based company’s business plan, CEO Jane Poynter said today at the Space Frontier Foundation’s NewSpace 2016 conference in Seattle. The time frame for testing a full-size mockup of the Voyager crew capsule has been pushed back, however.

In January, Poynter said the flight test would take place in mid-2016. Today, she said that test would be conducted early next year instead.

In the meantime, World View is ramping up its “Stratollite” system i(“Stratosphere” plus “Satellite”). The program involves attaching payloads to a high-altitude balloon, lofting them up beyond 100,000 feet in altitude, and letting them float above the clouds to relay signals, capture imagery, gather weather data or perform other functions that are typically done by satellites or large unmanned aerial vehicles.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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