Startup successfully tests space tourism balloon, service set to lift off in 2016

space tourism balloon passes first test service set lift 2016 world view

If Virgin Galactic’s $250,000 asking price for a ride aboard SpaceShipTwo to the edge of space is a little on the steep side, perhaps you can scrabble together the $75,000 required for a balloon-based experience also offering a view of Earth from up high.

Arizona-based World View Enterprises, a startup born out of the Paragon Space Development Corporation, announced this week the successful completion of a high-altitude test flight of a stratospheric balloon and capsule based on a final design being prepped for commercial service in 2016.

“We couldn’t be any more excited about the results from this test flight,” World View CEO Jane Pointer said this week, adding that it represents “a foundational achievement that moves us one step closer to offering a life-changing experience” for its future passengers.

The five-hour test flight, which launched from Roswell, New Mexico, involved taking the massive helium balloon and capsule to an altitude of 120,000 feet (36,600 meters) – about the height from which Austrian extreme skydiver Felix Baumgartner jumped in 2012.

Once the team was satisfied with its performance at that altitude, the test vehicle was brought down to 50,000 feet (15,200 meters), at which point it deployed a parafoil to bring it gently back to terra firma.

world view space balloon

The plan is to offer regular folk – or regular folk with $75,000 to spare – a “peaceful” flight to the edge of space “for a two-hour sailing-like experience,” World View explains on its website. In contrast, SpaceShipTwo fliers would only experience suborbital conditions for several minutes.

Those aboard World View’s eight-person capsule (two crew and six passengers) will be able to “marvel at the beauty of the Earth below and watch the sun slowly rise above the curvature of our planet suspended in a vast, black and infinite universe,” according to the startup.

It also plans to attract educators, researchers, private companies and government agencies interested in making use of the near-space environment.

While Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo is designed to take passengers more than 65 miles above the Earth’s surface – compared to 23 miles with World View’s service – the longer, and more serene experience (not to mention the more attractive price tag) may well persuade some space enthusiasts with money in the bank to opt for the startup’s experience.

Emerging Tech

How emotion-tracking A.I. will change computing as we know it

Affectiva is just one of the startups working to create emotion-tracking A.I. that can work out how you're feeling. Here's why this could change the face of computing as we know it.
Mobile

The 15 most stylish iPhone docks and charging stands for your device

The right iPhone dock does more than just hold your phone. If you’re looking for the perfect dock for your bedroom, or one to sit discretely on your office desk, there’s a good chance you’ll find it here.
Gaming

An ode to Cuphead: One of the most lovable games of all time

Revisiting Cuphead on Nintendo Switch is just as memorable as it was on Xbox One nearly two years ago. Cuphead's aesthetic has a magical quality that transports you back to the childhood joy of discovery.
Trash

Looking to get into shape? Snag one of these fitness trackers

Looking for your first fitness tracker, or an upgrade to the one you're already wearing? There are plenty of the wrist-worn gadgets available. Here are our picks for the best fitness trackers available right now.
Emerging Tech

Yale scientists restore cellular activity in a pig’s brain hours after its death

In what some may view as a porcine version of Frankenstein, Yale University scientists have restored circulation and cellular activity in a pig’s brain four hours after its death. The study is likely to be used to study brain function
Emerging Tech

Russia’s robot news anchor gives human TV presenters hope

Human news anchors anxious about robots taking their jobs will be feeling reassured this week after the appearance on Russian TV of a news-reading android that clearly needs a bit of work.
Emerging Tech

NASA is building an inflatable space robot named King Louie

NASA is funding an inflatable robot called King Louie which could travel to the stars in deflated form and then be blown up when and where required. Here is why that's so exciting.
Smart Home

I have seen the future, and it’s full of salad-making robots

Think that robots bussing tables, tossing salads and baking bread is a futuristic concept? It's actually not as far away as you might think. Robots took center stage at a food robotics summit in San Francisco this week, where they showed…
Emerging Tech

U.S. police are testing out Batman-style bola guns to catch criminals

U.S. police are taking a page out of Batman’s playbook with a new grappling hook gun, called the BolaWrap, which fires out a kevlar cord able to tie up assailants in the blink of an eye.
Emerging Tech

U.S., U.K. embrace autonomous robot spy subs that can stay at sea for months

Unmanned, autonomous robot spy submarines that are able to stay at sea for months at a time may be coming to both the United States and its ally across the pond, the U.K. Here's what we know so far.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Facebook data security, Ubisoft helps Notre Dame, and more

Join DT Live as we discuss Facebook security issues, Ubisoft's plan to help rebuild Notre Dame, and more. We are also joined by Emily Teteut of Snap the Gap, Jennifer Sendrow of New York Public Radio, and DJ and producer Zeke Thomas.
Emerging Tech

Meet the gene-edited bacteria that could make cannabis plants obsolete

Ever wanted to brew cannabis like you brew craft beer? At UC Berkeley, biologists have managed to engineer brewer’s yeast so that it produces the main cannabinoids found in marijuana.
Emerging Tech

Planet-hunting satellite discovers its first Earth-sized planet

NASA's planet hunting satellite, TESS, has made a new discovery. Last month the satellite discovered its first exoplanet. And now it has achieved another milestone, locating its first Earth-sized planet and a larger sibling planet.
Emerging Tech

Resupply mission carries 7,600 pounds of scientific equipment to ISS

The Cygnus spacecraft has rendezvoused with the International Space Station as part of a months-long resupply mission. The craft will remain docked until July 23, while the crew take in the 7,600 pounds of research equipment it carried.