A company called World View wants to float customers into space from Spaceport America – for the comparatively bargain price of $75,000 – in a spaceship lifted by a high-altitude balloon.
As in the earliest days of air travel, every new launch vehicle invented has its idiosyncracies: Some launch vertically, others horizontally. Most involve rockets.
World View aims to lift an eight-seat capsule by means of a helium balloon, linked together by suspension cables. Its designer is Paragon Space Development Corp.
“The capsule functions as a gondola beneath the balloon,” according to a description by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Rather than a rocket-powered ascent, World View’s would float two hours to an altitude of more than 98,000 feet to give passengers a view of Earth’s curvature. The company hopes to have the launches start in 2016.
The FAA recently determined that the capsule “is built to operate in outer space.” However, the agency declined to address whether World View’s trips – which fall short of the 250,000 feet Virgin Galactic is aiming for with its rocket-powered space plane flights from Spaceport America – constitute “outer space” or not.