Image: Near-Space Balloon Rides: Startup To Offer Sky High Views

Near-Space Balloon Rides: Startup To Offer Sky High Views

Wednesday, 23 Oct 2013 11:33 AM

By Clyde Hughes

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An Arizona startup wants to float passengers into near space with a balloon for a two-hour view at $75,000 per ride.

World View, a subsidiary of Paragon Space Development Corp., is working to meet Federal Aviation Administration requirements and begin flight tests with the goal of eventually offering commercial flights near space in three years, Reuters reported.

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Passengers would ride in a 40 million cubic-foot helium balloon with a steerable parafoil, which is also an inflatable wing-shaped parachute. The capsule would take 90 minutes to two hours to reach peak altitude and would go more than twice as high as commercial jets.

"The sky’s going to be completely black," Jane Poynter, co-founder of Paragon Space Development, told the Washington Post. "You’ll be able to see the curvature of the Earth." 

The FAA said Tuesday that the World View capsule will be regulated as a space craft because it will be built to operate in outer space.

"At Paragon's intended altitude, water and blood boil, and an unprotected person would rapidly experience fatal decompression," the FAA noted in a letter to Paragon.

Six passengers and two pilots would ride in World View's pressurized capsule, which is still under development. On its website, World View said it plans to offer its riders views of the planet previously that only astronauts have seen live. 

"The transition from horizon to the blackness of space will thrill you," World View's website states. "The luxurious comfort and gentle glide of your vessel will spoil you for hours, while you sip your beverage of choice. The curvature of the Earth will simply take your breath away. A truly transformative human experience."

Paragon's plans are among a number of efforts to capitalize on space tourism, which entrepreneurs say is the next big thing. Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic is planning to start sending tourists into space next year with its rocket-powered SpaceShipTwo.

Virgin Galactic told the Post that it has sold nearly 650 advance tickets for its flights with cost ranging from $200,000 to $250,000 a per person.

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