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Company successfully tests space-tourism balloon

By Jeri Clausing

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - An Arizona company says it has successfully completed the first small-scale test flight of a high-altitude balloon and capsule being developed to let tourists float 20 miles above the earth.

World View Enterprises of Tucson said Tuesday that it launched the flight last week from Roswell.

CEO Jane Poynter said the system broke the world record for highest parafoil flight, lifting a payload to 120,000 feet.

"It went really, really, really well," Poynter said. "Actually, the guys hit the ball out of the park. We're thrilled."

The system uses a balloon similar to that used in 2012 to lift Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner 128,000 feet to make a world-record breaking 24-mile sky dive. That flight also launched from the Roswell airport.

Poynter said last week's flight was the first testing all the components together. It used a balloon about third the size of that planned for passenger flight to lift a payload of about one-tenth of what will be used to carry passengers.

The company is still planning to begin its $75,000 per-person flights in 2016, she said. The balloons will lift a capsule carrying six passengers and two crew members 20 miles up, where they will float under a parafoil for about two hours before floating back down to earth. The capsule will be big enough for the passengers to walk around.

The selling point is the view of the Earth and seeing its curve, the company says. Other space-tourism ventures under development will rocket passengers the full 62 miles into space but on much shorter flights.

In filings with the Federal Aviation Administration, World View said it planned to launch its flights from Spaceport America in New Mexico. But Poynter Tuesday said that no final decision has been made on where to base the flights.

Spaceport is where Virgin Galactic plans to launch its first space-tourism flights at a cost of $200,000 per person. Development of Virgin's spacecraft has taken longer than originally planned, and it is unclear when the company, founded by British billionaire Richard Branson, will make its first flight. The company's newest target date is the end of this year, but it has said that for each of the last several years.

"I don't think anyone considers us in a race," Poynter said when asked if they might beat Virgin Galactic to passenger flight. "We don't consider us in competition because the experience is so completely different."

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Larry June 24 2014 at 11:48 PM

cheaper answer - lawn chair & helium balloons.

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CPA11973 June 25 2014 at 12:49 AM

hope it will have a bathroom on board.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
2 replies
barryaclarke CPA11973 June 25 2014 at 1:35 AM

I wonder what happens when a guy misses the toilet?..............

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Ray CPA11973 June 25 2014 at 10:31 AM

The passengers will be wearing company issued space diapers.

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1 reply
kaustin Ray June 25 2014 at 12:09 PM

"Depends" on the expected turbulence. Taco Bell regulars need not apply...

Flag 0 rate up
bwess8 June 25 2014 at 1:02 AM

only a spoiled rich guy would pay that price . and some how get a tax cut for a
business trip .

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1 reply
Christopher bwess8 June 25 2014 at 9:49 AM

libs are so jealous when someone else has more than they do , but it is what makes then libs. The angry ones that hope everything fails

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1 reply
dpaustex Christopher June 25 2014 at 11:31 AM

Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.

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pruettee June 25 2014 at 1:32 AM

I am happy for the company. I will not be using this contraption. First I would not pay the $75,000 for the ride. Second, I had no desire to jump our of airplanes when I was in the army and I certainly have not desire to go to outerspace.

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Lori June 25 2014 at 12:11 PM

Doesn't look safe.No thanks,I'll take my chances on the ground then in a $75k death trap.Even if I had the money or desire what a waste of $$$.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
kaustin June 25 2014 at 12:07 PM

Where the difference between "Life" & "Death" is dependent on the strength and reliability of a balloon? Oh, Hell No!

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edritzer June 25 2014 at 11:59 AM

Why not a balloon to get to this height then a rocket to really get into outer space? Would require way less fuel.

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fourprs June 25 2014 at 10:42 AM

Someone with a service pet will file a complaint.

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mikeraydj June 25 2014 at 10:39 AM

This is what we worked and were taxed so many years for? The ability to ride a balloon 20 miles up? Or spend a couple minutes in zero G? We should be ashamed that we've allowed our space program go the way of the Dodo. We should have been walking on Mars by now. Instead, we are selling carnival joyrides, and begging rides from the Russians to our own space station. We don't have the right stuff.

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Ray June 25 2014 at 10:33 AM

You have to start somewhere. The Star Trek U.S.S. Enterprise is a long way off..

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