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Plan to fly passengers to stratosphere gets a reboot

Balloon above Florida
Space Perspective’s balloon-borne capsule, known as Spaceship Neptune, would provide a wide-angle view of the Florida coastline. (Space Perspective Illustration)

The space entrepreneurs who planned to send passengers ballooning into the stratosphere for astronaut’s-eye views of the Earth below, way back in 2013, have revived the idea for a new venture called Space Perspective.

Co-CEOs Taber MacCallum and Jane Poynter unveiled their concept for a balloon-borne capsule called Spaceship Neptune today, and said that uncrewed test flights are due to begin early next year.

“Good things take time,” MacCallum joked during an interview with GeekWire in advance of the big reveal.

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NetMotion links up with Skype in stratosphere

Stratospheric payload
The curving Earth and the black sky of space serve as the backdrop for NetMotion Software’s balloon-borne contraption, outfitted with an iPad that maintained a Skype connection at an altitude of 85,000 feet. (NetMotion Software via YouTube)

What’s the best way to show off your mobile networking technology? How about demonstrating that the technology can seamlessly switch between WiFi, cellular and satellite data connectivity while it’s flying on a balloon up to a height of 85,000 feet?

That’s the answer that Seattle-based NetMotion Software came up with when it sought to showcase its mobile video conferencing capabilities.

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World View balloon venture gets new CEO

Stratollite
An artist’s conception shows World View’s Stratollite platform in action. (World View Illustration)

For three and a half years, Ryan Hartman served as president and CEO of Insitu — the Boeing subsidiary headquartered in Bingen, Wash., that pioneered the creation of unmanned aircraft systems for military and commercial applications.

Now Hartman will raise his sights as the new CEO of Tucson, Ariz.-based World View, which is developing stratospheric balloon-borne platforms known as Stratollites to perform satellite-style tasks in remote sensing and communications.

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World View balloon venture gets a $26.5M lift

World View balloon
World View sends up a Z-Class stratospheric flight vehicle to conduct research on radiation level for NASA Ames Research Center and Space Environment Technologies. (World View Photo)

Arizona-based World View says it has closed a $26.5 million Series C financing round, led by Accel with participation from previous investors Canaan and Norwest Venture Partners. The funding will help World View accelerate work on its Stratollite system, a low-cost, balloon-borne platform that can provide satellite-type services.

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World View balloon goes boom after test

A high-altitude balloon reportedly exploded at Spaceport Tucson in Arizona today after a test that was being conducted by World View Enterprises. No injuries were reported, but the loud boom shook up residents in the surrounding area.

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World View shows off pics from high-flying balloon

Stratollite image
A photo shows how World View’s Stratollite balloon-borne platform could keep watch on a commercial facility from a stratospheric vantage point. The inset shows a passing airplane. (World View Enterprises Photo)

World View Enterprises’ first near-space pictures demonstrate how the Arizona company’s balloon-based imaging platform can rival satellite views.

The photos were released today in conjunction with the Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference in Colorado.

Tucson-based World View is working on what it calls its Stratollite system, which puts scientific instruments on a platform that’s lofted into the stratosphere on the end of a helium-filled balloon. Images and other types of data can be downlinked from on high in real time, or stored for recovery when the platform descends.

“Coupled with Stratollite’s game-changing ability to persist over areas of interest for days, weeks, and months on end, the ability to capture real-time images like these will unlock unprecedented applications and markets for the Stratollite,” Jane Poynter, World View’s co-founder and CEO, said in a news release about the newly released images.

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World View’s drone balloon finishes 5-day flight

World View Stratollite balloon
World View’s Stratollite test balloon rises from Spaceport Tucson. (World View Photo)

World View Enterprises has executed its longest stratospheric balloon flight ever, steering a solar-powered payload through five days’ worth of testing at altitudes in excess of 55,000 feet.

The high-altitude outing marked the Arizona-based company’s first launch from Spaceport Tucson, and a significant milestone in its plan to fly commercial “Stratollite” missions.

“This is an enormous leap in our development program, and we are certain the Stratollite is going to forge a new path in how we observe, react to and collect data about our planet,” World View co-founder and CEO Jane Poynter said in a news release.

The Stratollite concept aims to provide many of the capabilities of a satellite at a cost that’s potentially orders of magnitude less, thanks to World View’s remote-controlled, balloon-borne platform.

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World View does its first Spaceport Tucson liftoff

Balloon liftoff
A high-altitude balloon is inflated in preparation for World View’s launch from Spaceport Tucson in Arizona. (World View Photo)

World View Enterprises today executed its first balloon liftoff from Spaceport Tucson, the Arizona facility that it expects will be the home base for satellite-like “Stratollite” missions to the stratosphere — and, eventually, tourist flights as well.

“Spaceport Tucson, the first-ever purpose-built stratospheric launch facility in the world, is now open for business,” World View co-founder and CEO Jane Poynter said in a news release.

World View operates the facility on behalf of Arizona’s Pima County, which built the headquarters and production building as well as a 700-foot-wide circular balloon launch pad under the terms of a $15 million deal struck in 2016. That deal has been the subject of legal wrangling for more than a year.

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Balloon leak ends ‘space sandwich’ flight

World View Enterprises said its “Zinger 1” mission to keep a KFC chicken sandwich aloft in the stratosphere was terminated earlier than planned, due to a small leak in an altitude-control balloon system on its Stratollite platform. The company’s CEO, Jane Poynter, said today in a statement that the payload was brought down about 17 hours after the balloon launch on June 29 in Arizona. “Within the first few hours of flight, all system test objectives were met,” she said. Poynter added that the chicken sandwich “performed flawlessly.”

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Stratospheric protest aimed at Donald Trump

Protest tweet
A protest tweet is suspended from a balloon in the stratosphere. (ASAN via YouTube)

If someone can send a Donald Trump bobblehead tribute up into the stratosphere on a balloon, we suppose it’s only fair that a protest of President Trump’s policies can go up there, too. That’s what the totally unofficial Autonomous Space Agency Network did with its Aphrodite Program balloon launch of a printed-out tweet that’s addressed to Trump. The message? “LOOK AT THAT, YOU SON OF A BITCH,” with our beautiful planet seen in the background from a height of 90,000 feet. The command was inspired by the late Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell.

Get the news brief (and the video) on GeekWire.