Being able to go up into space is a rare opportunity for astronauts; for some, it can even be a once in a lifetime opportunity. For that reason, commercial companies, such as World View Enterprises, are interested in creating a solution that would allow even every-day people with no spaceflight experience to view space, as well as the world under their feet, from up above.
World View Enterprises is working on a commercial spacecraft that gets lifted from the ground using a massive balloon. Then, the balloon takes the spacecraft up to the boundaries of the Earth’s atmosphere, where the passengers will get to see a decent view of the Earth, as well as space.
Recently, the company broke a huge milestone by launching a 10% scale replica of the spacecraft, which they intend to build for tourists, into the stratosphere. The balloon lifted the spacecraft 100,475 feet (30624 meters) into the air above Page, Arizona on October 24th, and it was able to easily float back down to the Earth by way of parachute-like contraption that can be steered by the pilot flying the craft.
The goal is to now move on to the next phase of testing, which involves creating the full-sized model, which is not only bigger, but significantly heavier.
“While each individual system has been analyzed and extensively tested in previous test flights, this significant milestone allowed us to test and prove all critical flight systems at once. Now we're ready for the next major phase of development – full scale system testing,” said Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder Taber MacCallum.
The full-scale testing will not involve the actual spacecraft, but rather will involve a 10,000-pound full-size model that weighs the same as the real thing. It will be unmanned, such that no one is harmed in the testing process, and is scheduled to occur some time next year.
The actual full-size spacecraft, which will hopefully be ready for flight by 2017, will take tourists up to high altitude, where World View says they’ll get to enjoy a two-hour long ride in the air in what feels like a “sailing experience” before coming back to the ground. The whole trip, from launch to landing, is anywhere from 5-6 hours long.
The actual spacecraft will be luxurious for anyone onboard and includes a full bar and restrooms, but it won’t be cheap. Those interested in going for the ride will have to pony up $75,000 for a ticket.
It should be interesting to see where this goes, or if it will spark other companies to offer competitively-priced alternatives for those that don’t have $75,000 to throw around.
If you want to see the video of the scale model test-flight, you can watch it below:
Source: World View via Space