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World View shows off its Stratollite scheme

World View HQ
The 100-foot-high red tower at World View’s headquarters plays a part in testing the parasail for the company’s hybrid balloon platform for stratospheric observations. (World View Photo)

World View Enterprises declared its Tucson headquarters and its hybrid balloon technology to be ready for prime time today, in the wake of a pathfinder mission that captured satellite-type imagery from a stratospheric height of nearly 77,000 feet.

“This technology, sending high-altitude balloons up into the stratosphere, has essentially at this point, with the opening of this building, opened an entire new world of business and aviation,” said former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, World View’s director of flight crew operations.

World View CEO Jane Poynter said the key to the technology is the ability to control the company’s uncrewed “Stratollites” remotely to make them ascend or descend, hover over one spot for months at a time, or fly on a course around the world.

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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 balloon venture picks chief pilot

Image: Ron Garan
NASA astronaut Ron Garan floats in the International Space Station’s Cupola in 2011. (Credit: NASA)

Former astronaut Ron Garan has a new vantage point for sharing what he calls “the Orbital Perspective”: his position as chief pilot for World View Enterprises.

Arizona-based World View wants to give passengers a near-space experience, by sending them up in a pressurized capsule that’s lofted to heights beyond 100,000 feet by a high-altitude balloon. During a leisurely ascent to the atmosphere, passengers would get a space-like view of the Earth below, with the black arc of space above. Then the capsule would be cut loose from the balloon for a parachute-assisted descent and landing.

Cost for the trip? $75,000.

Garan told GeekWire that his job will be to ensure the “safe accomplishment of all aspects” of flight – not only for the passenger flights in the future, but for the remote-controlled flights that are going on now.

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Pegasus will put you in touch with stratosphere

Image: Pegasus I view
The sun shines above the clouds in a view captured by the Pegasus I balloon experiment. (Credit: MIcrosoft)

How high can the Internet of Things go? Microsoft Research plans to extend the IoT into the stratosphere with its Pegasus II high-altitude balloon experiment, and you’re invited to take a virtual ride.

The flight will build on years’ worth of research into creating networks that can take advantage of Microsoft Azure cloud services, even when part of the network is above the clouds.

Pegasus I sent a balloon from Othello, Wash., to an altitude of 100,000 feet in January 2015. The communication system experienced some glitches, but Microsoft Research’s Project Orleans team eventually recovered the instrument payload and extracted data that helped them prepare for the Pegasus sequel.

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