Arizona-based World View Enterprises is settling into its new offices at Spaceport Tucson and gearing up for what could be a high-flying year ahead.
World View offers a flight system that uses high-altitude balloons to loft payloads, and eventually people, beyond 100,000 feet in altitude. That height isn’t anywhere near the internationally accepted boundary of outer space, but it’s high enough to conduct weather research and provide an astronaut’s-eye view of the Earth below.
The company is already testing balloon platforms known as “Stratollites” that could do some of the work traditionally performed by satellites. Eventually, World View plans to take passengers up on hours-long flights, at a price of $75,000 a seat.
In January, World View struck a $15 million deal with Pima County for construction of Spaceport Tucson, which includes a headquarters and manufacturing facility as well as a 700-foot-wide circular balloon launch pad. The deal was contingent on the facility being ready by the end of this year.
Real Estate Daily News quoted Sharon Bronson, chairwoman of the Pima County Board of Supervisors, as saying that the county completed construction last week, at a cost that was less than the budgeted $15 million. As part of the deal, the company will lease the facility from the county for 20 years, with annual payments ranging from $675,000 to $1.62 million.
“We are thrilled to be in the building on time, and impressed with how collaborative the process has been with all our partners involved to ensure the successful completion of the Spaceport and World View HQ,” World View CEO Jane Poynter said in Real Estate Daily News’ report.
In an email to GeekWire, World View spokeswoman Carmen Noriega confirmed that the staff has moved into the new facility, dubbed the Mothership, and is getting ready for a grand opening in February.
Even before moving in, World View conducted a balloon experiment for Southwest Research Institute in September, with funding from the NASA Flight Opportunities Program. The experiment tested a miniature portable solar observatory, known as the SwRI Solar Instrument Pointing Platform, that could eventually be placed aboard a commercial suborbital spacecraft.
World View’s uncrewed balloon flights are meant to blaze the trail for its stratospheric passenger capsule, known as Voyager. New Space conference in Seattle, Poynter said a full-scale Voyager mockup would take its first test flight in early 2017.