Last updated: 05:00 AM ET, Tue January 26 2016

Will You Soon Be Able to Float to the Edge of Space by Balloon?

Features & Advice | Paul Thompson | January 26, 2016

Will You Soon Be Able to Float to the Edge of Space by Balloon?

Rendering via YouTube

By next year, a company called World View plans to offer you the chance to go to the edge of space — in a capsule that will be lifted by a helium-filled balloon. With a price of $75,000, would you consider this super-smooth ride to where few have gone before?

While the price might seem steep, it’s only a fraction of the Virgin Galactic Space Ship 2 ticket price ($250,000). In addition, this relatively new start-up company will beat Virgin Galactic into operation, if all goes according to plan.

And finally, going up in a balloon is decidedly gentler than being launched on board a rocket that is dropped by a plane.

If it seems a bit risky, World View says there is no need to worry about the balloon going “too high.” The atmosphere will keep the balloon from flying off into orbit. They use an ice cube as an example. An ice cube is lighter than water, but it can’t completely rise above the water on which it is floating. Make sense?

READ MORE: Floating Above Cappadocia

Describing the experience, the company says the capsule inside which “Voyagers” will be riding is “comfortable, and stylishly appointed.” The flight will require no special training, so you’re literally just along for the ride. The plan is to take passengers above 100,000 feet. You get to spend roughly two hours at that altitude, which is also far longer, but at a much lower altitude than Virgin Galactic.

As a Voyager, your flight time will be an estimated five to six hours, including ascent and descent. To descend, a pilot makes the balloon vent helium from its canopy, dropping slowly until the ParaWing takes over. At this point, the balloon is released and the pilot uses the wing to guide the capsule to a landing site, which is up to 300 miles from point of departure, depending on wind strength. The capsule is fitted with deployable skids on the bottom, allowing for a gentle landing. From there, the Voyagers are shuttled back to the takeoff location.

Some stats and facts about your World View flight: The enormous gas-filled balloon envelope is constructed of polyethylene film, and holds 40 million cubic feet of helium, and expands to the approximate size of a football stadium! Normal hot air balloons hold 42,000 to 310,000 cubic feet. Even Goodyear’s newest blimp, “Wingfoot One” only holds 297,000 cubic feet — this thing is massive!

The capsule holds six passengers plus two crewmembers, and offers 360-degree views. If you’ve gotta go, the capsule does contain a toilet. No word on whether it’s the vacuum style lavatory the astronauts use. There’s also a refreshment bar.

READ MORE: Meet Virgin Galactic’s 747 Rocket Launcher

The company successfully performed a 1/10th scale test of their concept last October, but they have a long way to go before getting this thing off the ground, though they did get the all-important FAA approval.

If you’re looking to get into almost-space at some point in your life, World View looks like it will be the cheapest, safest and most comfortable way to do so.


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