World View Enterprises today executed its first balloon liftoff from Spaceport Tucson, the Arizona facility that it expects will be the home base for satellite-like “Stratollite” missions to the stratosphere — and, eventually, tourist flights as well.
“Spaceport Tucson, the first-ever purpose-built stratospheric launch facility in the world, is now open for business,” World View co-founder and CEO Jane Poynter said in a news release.
World View operates the facility on behalf of Arizona’s Pima County, which built the headquarters and production building as well as a 700-foot-wide circular balloon launch pad under the terms of a $15 million deal struck in 2016. That deal has been the subject of legal wrangling for more than a year.
Poynter said the Federal Aviation Administration recently issued a Certificate of Authorization to World View for balloon launches, opening the way for today’s inaugural test.
The test’s primary objective was to rehearse mission control protocols for future flights from Spaceport Tucson, located south of Tucson International Airport.
World View already has conducted balloon launches from other testing grounds in Arizona, including NASA-funded experiments and a widely publicized mission that sent a KFC chicken sandwich into the stratosphere in June. But this was the first to take off from the Tucson facility.
The four-year-old company’s balloon-borne platforms can rise to altitudes in excess of 100,000 feet. That’s three times as high as commercial jetliners typically fly, but only a third of the way to the internationally accepted 100-kilometer (328,084-foot) boundary of outer space.
World View aims to offer stratospheric launch services that can offer many of the Earth-monitoring capabilities of satellite missions at a fraction of the cost. The company has a longer-term goal of sending tourists into the stratosphere on hours-long flights that would provide passengers in a pressurized gondola with space-like views of Earth and the black sky above.
The ticket price for World View’s future Voyager flights is $75,000.