Stratospheric balloon launch startup World View has completed its inaugural launch from its new Tucson, Arizona-based headquarters, the company announced today. The new HQ was officially opened back in February, but since then it's been preparing the facility for regular launch operations, culminating in today's debut take-off.
World View is trying to carve out novel territory in commercial space business, by launching super high altitude balloon craft, which can operate at the upper edge of Earth's atmosphere for scientific, observational and other purposes, while keeping costs well below those of low-Earth orbit satellites. World View's stratosphere altitude could help with long-term site observation, weather monitoring, and even defence applications.
The inaugural Tuscon launch took place Saturday morning, after a balloon fill test conducted in mid-August. The Tucson HQ features no only launch facilities, but also offices, and one of the longest continuous tables in the world, which the company uses to handcraft its gigantic stratospheric balloons. Eventually, World View wants to be able to send balloons up that can even carry a passenger pod, for stratosphere tourists and science crews.
World View CEO Jane Poynter said that the first launch from Tucson was "another important milestone in our series of Stratollite development and demonstration missions, which are helping us perfect our overall technology and operations as we move closer to a routine long-duration, station-keeping Stratollite platform."
The company recently celebrated a milestone of a record 27 hour flight for one of its balloons – eventually, it hopes to be able to run commercial operations where balloons remain aloft for months at a time.