World View To Launch $75K Balloon Rides To The Edge Of Space Starting In 2016

By Josh Lieberman on October 22, 2013 3:58 PM EDT

world view balloon
World View Enterprises will begin offering balloon rides to near-space for $75,000 starting in 2016. (Photo: World View Enterprises, Inc.)

If you've got $75,000 to burn and a desire to go very high in the air, has World View Enterprises got a deal for you. The new venture is aiming to send tourists into space in 2016 aboard a pressurized capsule hauled up by high-altitude balloon. Or rather, they'll be sending tourists into "space": the World View capsule will ascend about 19 miles, well above the seven- or eight-mile altitude of commercial aircraft but far below 62 miles, the generally agreed-upon height of where space begins.

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But even if the World View capsule won't reach the height of a nerd's definition of space (you heard me, NASA), passengers will be treated to what "being in space" means to most of us: they'll see the curvature of the Earth against a black sky. That view is sort of the whole point, as those aboard the capsule will not experience weightlessness at that height.

"Seeing the Earth hanging in the ink-black void of space will help people realize our connection to our home planet and to the universe around us, and will surely offer a transformative experience to our customers," said World View CEO Jane Poynter. "We look forward to pioneering this new, accessible and affordable spaceflight regime, and to sharing the breathtaking, once-in-a-lifetime experience with people from around the globe."

The eight-person capsule (six passengers and two pilots) would take about an hour and a half to ascend, with another two hours devoted to hanging out. The balloon would then be released from the capsule, putting the capsule into free-fall. A parasail would then inflate and glide the capsule back to Earth.

The FAA has determined that the World View capsule must meet spacecraft requirements. At a height of 19 miles, "water and blood boil, and an unprotected person would rapidly experience fatal decompression," the FAA wrote [PDF]. They also wrote that they were offering "no opinion" on whether a height of 19 miles qualifies as outer space.

World View is a subsidiary of Paragon Space Development Corp., an Arizona-based company which has supplied hardware to the International Space Station and Mir. The company didn't say where they'd be launching their balloon rides from, but the document filed with the FAA showed that the company was considering Spaceport America in Las Cruces, N.M. 

Though World View has yet to perform testing, they claim their capsule will be ready for 2016.

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