Space Tourism: World View Balloon Aces First Test

space-tourism-balloon-23Late last year, a new space tourism company emerged that proposed using a high-tech balloon ride to take passengers higher than they’ve ever been. The company quickly earned FAA approval for its audacious plan to take tourists on five hour near-space rides. And late last month, the company successfully completed its first round of tests, and in the process broke the record for the highest parafoil flight.

The company launched the test flight some three weeks ago from Roswell, New Mexico using a balloon which was roughly one third the size of that planned for passengers flight. It carried a payload of about 204 kg (450 lb), which is one-tenth the weight of what the company expects will be a full passenger load. The flight was the first time all the components were tested together, reaching a record-breaking altitude of 36,500 m (120,000 ft).

space-tourism-balloon-10Though components of the experience have been tested in the past, this marks the first time all elements of the spaceflight system were tested together. It was a huge success and a major milestone for the company. The company hopes to be able to commence passenger rides by 2016, once they’ve completed all testing to make sure their equipment and methods are safe.

Based on their FAA filings, the company has said that it will launch its rides from Spaceport American in the New Mexican desert. However, CEO Jane Poynter has recently said that no final decision has actually been made in this regard. Although the balloon does not technically lift its passengers into outer space – which is defined as a distance of 100 km (62 miles) from the Earth’s surface – it will certainly make for an unforgettable experience.

space-tourism-balloon-20For the cost of $75,000, customers will be taken to an altitude of 32 km (20 miles). From there, they will be able to see the curvature of the Earth, and at a fraction of the price for Virgin Galactic’s $200,000 rocket-propelled trip. The ride will consist of a capsule large enough for passengers to walk around in will being lifted well above the troposphere, thanks to a giant balloon containing 400,000 cubic meters of helium.

Their space balloon is not at all dissimilar to the one used by daredevil Felix Baumgartner when he broke the record for high-altitude skydiving roughly two years ago. In order to return back to Earth, the balloon will cut away from the capsule, and then a parafoil will allow it to land safely as a paraglider, deploying skids on which to land. Alongside other space-tourism ventures, the latter half of this decade is likely to be an exciting time to be alive!

Be sure to check out the company’s website by clicking here. And in the meantime, enjoy this company video showing the test flight:


Watch Historic Skydive From Baumgartner’s POV

At this point in time, I’m sure everyone has heard about Baumgartner’s historic space jump which took him from the edge of space and deposited safely him into the record books for all time. However, amidst all the news and footage of Baumgartner’s 38,000 meter/126,000 foot jump, which involved 4 minute and 19 seconds freefall and the breaking of the sound barrier, one nagging question emerged. Where as the footage from Felix’s own chest camera?

Well, as luck would have it, the video was made available just a day later. Naturally, the crews had to access it from his suit, process it and upload it to the internet. With technology being what it is today, people expect things to be instantly available. Yet it seems that some things still have to be waited on. But I think you’ll agree once you watch this footage, a mere 24 hour wait was well worth it. Or in my case, a full four days. My apologies to my followers!

Baumgartner Makes Historic Space Jump!

It happened! The extreme skydiving daredevil made his historic, record-setting jump, after only one false start. The first attempt took place on Tuesday, but unfortunately high wind conditions forced them to cancel the jump. Despite the high altitude and extremely daring nature of the entire enterprise, minor variations in atmospheric and wind conditions had to be taken into account

Luckily, today things went off without a hitch. Launching from their base camp in Roswell New Mexico, Baumgartner ascended via his high-altitude balloon to the upper reaches of Earth’s atmosphere. Then, at an altitude of approx. 38.5 km above sea level, he jumped with the hopes of achieving supersonic free fall.

And that is precisely what he did, and then some. In fact, according to the  Red Bull Stratos team, Baumgartner’s achieved a top speed of 1,173 km/hour, or 729 mph. The team’s expectation was that 690 mph would be sufficient to get Baumgartner to Mach 1, considering the extreme elevation. The previous record, one of several he sought to beat was 614 mph, which was set back in 1960 and has stood ever since.

Naturally, there were a few technical glitches along the way. These included some issues with Baumgartner’s visor and the balloon’s power supply. After making the jump, he found himself spinning faster and faster, and almost lost consciousness at one point. This is apparently what prevented him from feeling the sonic boom that he eventually made. All in all, Baumgartner admitted it was a lot harder than he thought it would be. Hmm, jumping out a balloon on the edge of space and free falling towards the planet at speeds so fast you break the sound barrier? What’s hard about that?

Kudos to Baumgartner for the record-setting jump and making history. And be sure to check out the video of his jump, freefall and landing below:

The Most Ambitious Skydive in History

Skydiving is something that just about everyone contemplates at some point in their existence, but few of us really get around to. In fact, I’d wager that just about every “Bucket List” that has ever been made has skydiving on it, most likely in the top ten. However, just about all of these “controlled descents” involve a tandem jump with an instructor, and rarely exceed ten to fifteen thousand feet.

But imagine, if you will, that a certain extreme athlete named Felix Baumgartner sought to attempt the most ambitious skydive in history by jumping from a staggering 120,000 feet. That would place him at the very edge of space, making it an stratospheric HALO jump and the longest freefall in human history to boot. As the culmination of Red Bull Stratos Project, the jump will involve a balloon, a space suit, and a chute which will not be deployed until he is well withing Earth’s atmosphere.

Already, Felix has performed his test flight, jumping from a staggering 96,000 feet to test out his suit, the ascension balloon, and all the assorted equipment that is making this jump possible. However, the 120,000 feet will be distinguished by being the jump that breaks not one, but four world records.The first three were all set by a U.S. Air Force Captain named Joe Kittinger, who accomplished the highest skydive, manned balloon flight, and longest freefall in human history back in 1960.

However, Felix’s jump will also accomplish something which no human being has ever accomplished. In the course of his jump, his body will accelerate to to supersonic speeds, making him the first human who has ever broken the speed of sound without the use of an aircraft. Even NASA scientists say that they have no idea what effect this will have on a human body, though it is assumed that his spacesuit will protect him from the worst effects of it. And by the time he reaches the lower atmosphere, wind resistance should slow him down enough that by the time he pulls his chute, his organs won’t be turned to pulp from the sudden deceleration.

The big jump was scheduled for this morning; unfortunately, the jump was aborted at the last minute due to weather. For this jump to be successful, Felix must be jumping into conditions where there can be no clouds, storms, and wind speed closest to the ground are no more than 3.2 km/hour. Seems kind of finicky for a man risking life and limb to break so many records, but what do I know? I’m not an extreme sport, HALO jumping daredevil!

Check out the footage from Felix’s test jump below, and stay tuned for more updates on this historic jump: