Judge deflates deal for Arizona balloon base

Image: Balloon launch
World View’s team prepares a high-altitude balloon to carry a solar observatory payload into the stratosphere. (Credit: Carmen Noriega / World View)

A judge in Arizona has struck down Pima County’s $15 million development deal with World View Enterprises for a stratospheric balloon launch facility near Tucson.

The Feb. 2 ruling by Pima County Superior Court Judge Catherine Woods dealt a setback to World View’s plans to send tourists and payloads to heights above 100,000 feet.

The deal was forged more than a year ago, and led to the construction of a 700-foot-wide launch pad and headquarters facility for World View at Spaceport Tucson. The plan called for World View to lease the facility for 20 years, making annual payments ranging from $675,000 to $1.62 million.

World View’s employees began moving into the facility at the end of last year.

Months before the move-in, the Arizona-based Goldwater Institute filed suit against Pima County, claiming that the lease arrangement violated state laws. This week, Woods agreed.

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World View settles into Spaceport Tucson

Spaceport Tucson
The Breitling Jet Team flies over Spaceport Tucson in October. (World View Photo)

Arizona-based World View Enterprises is settling into its new offices at Spaceport Tucson and gearing up for what could be a high-flying year ahead.

World View offers a flight system that uses high-altitude balloons to loft payloads, and eventually people, beyond 100,000 feet in altitude. That height isn’t anywhere near the internationally accepted boundary of outer space, but it’s high enough to conduct weather research and provide an astronaut’s-eye view of the Earth below.

The company is already testing balloon platforms known as “Stratollites” that could do some of the work traditionally performed by satellites. Eventually, World View plans to take passengers up on hours-long flights, at a price of $75,000 a seat.

In January, World View struck a $15 million deal with Pima County for construction of Spaceport Tucson, which includes a headquarters and manufacturing facility as well as a 700-foot-wide circular balloon launch pad. The deal was contingent on the facility being ready by the end of this year.

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World View’s spaceport plan gets $15 million lift

Image: World View balloon
World View’s Voyager capsule would rise into the stratosphere at the end of a high-altitude balloon, with a parafoil used to aid in its descent. (World View Enterprises illustration)

World View Enterprises’ plan to send tourists from Spaceport Tucson into the stratosphere in a balloon-borne capsule won a $15 million vote of support today from Arizona’s Pima County.

In a 4-1 vote, the county Board of Supervisors approved a plan to build the spaceport for World View’s use by the end of the year. World View is working on a pressurized Voyager capsule that would rise to 100,000 feet beneath a high-altitude balloon and give passengers a leisurely space-like view – all for the price of $75,000 a person.

World View CEO Jane Poynter told GeekWire that today’s vote of support signals that Arizona has joined the likes of Florida, California, New Mexico and Texas on the commercial space frontier. “We’re really seeing an inflection point in this whole space tech area,” she said.

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