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back to article US aviation watchdog approves $75K balloon ride into SPAAAACE!

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has given preliminary classification approval for a company that plans to offer $75,000 balloon rides to the edge of space. World View Enterprises balloon-gondola space vehicle at the edge of space 'It's so peaceful up here – pass me a pint, mate' The company that plans to loft up …

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Coat

I wonder

If it would be possible to reuse all that helium, to put it back into the bottle sort of. And it tends to be more fun when things go up than down, still it's only the sudden stop that might be the problem.

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Anonymous Coward

Something to avoid until all the kinks are sorted out which will probably mean that they will learn from their accidents.

Are they crowd sourcing this?

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Re: I wonder

It did strike me as a bit of a waste of the stuff, too.

But since when did people who can afford $75k for a joyride give a shit about using irreplaceable resources anyway?

[And yes: I'm being a killjoy hypocrite: I'd go if I had the chance, and I raptly followed both Bumgardner's and El Reg's efforts to fly to the upper reaches of the atmosphere.]

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Paris Hilton

Add a rocket??

Instant LOHAN!!

Sorry, couldn't resist. Icon to match as well.

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It's a TIE fighter!

But without the wing-things. I hope it makes the noise.

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pierced by a shaft of frozen urine which had fallen from a toilet facility of an overhead balloon

What if you need a pee?

And shouldn't we be saving the helium for MRI scanners?

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Thumb Up

Paragon was part of the commercail crew programme.

Specifically to provide the life support systems for the other CC members.

This is quite a step up for them.

Impressive.

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Compressing the Helium

If they could pump some helium out of the balloon to put it into a compressed helium cylinder, that would solve their other problem - a gentle re-entry, slowly floating down, could be achieved that way.

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Re: Compressing the Helium

If they could pump some helium out of the balloon to put it into a compressed helium cylinder

You could just pump some of it into the cabin and give passenger duck voices in the process. Win win :)

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Devil

Re: Compressing the Helium

There's something about the idea of duck voices screaming in terror as they drop that just amuses the evil, evil side of me.

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Re: Compressing the Helium

Well, they have a fully stocked bar. How long until one of the passengers decides that it would be a good idea to fetch a bit of the floaty gas to do just this?

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Here's a vid on how we want you to "imagine" the flight to be

If that vid was narrated I can imagine some thick syrupy soothing narrator voice saying "Watch how the gondola detaches from the balloon and gently wafts back to the surface..."

What, we didn't accurately portray the gravity powered screaming plunge of terror? Oops..

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Pint

98,425 feet

Imperial system FAIL.

So close to 100,000 feet, it would just be frustrating.

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While it's a worthy enough enterprise

I still can't help thinking it's a waste of helium.

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Re: While it's a worthy enough enterprise

Helium isn't exactly rare. It's a commodity with a devilishly managed artificial market. Here in the US we have the worlds largest reserves and the only reason they haven't been sold off is to keep the market at a peak profit point for those who deal in such things.

There's more than enough to 'waste'.

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Never fly strictly sober!

It's a good job there's a bar on board. The question is, can you drink enough in the climb and hang around phase to make you comatose for the "gravity powered screaming plunge of terror". (Thanks for that lovely mental image Pete).

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Flight Times

The 'two to nine hour flight'... I can't help but feel that if your flight is on either end of that spectrum you're getting a lot more excitement than you bargained for. That's a pretty ridiculous variance. The difference between me flying to Montreal or to London from DC.

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Pirate

Gremlins In The Machine

After going back and studying the last photo, I have determined this endeavor to be doomed. There are already Gremlins in the machine. You can see one by the wheel in the shadows of the forward wheel, exactly opposite the fellow heroicly gazing off into the distance. I'm not sure why the Gremlin is dressed in what appears to be a self inflating PFD, but I'm sure it probably knows...

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parafoil and stabilty.

The video shows a fully inflated parafoil on the ascent and most of the weather balloon videos ive watched imply payloads will be subjected to rapid spinning.

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Alien

Re: parafoil and stabilty.

Why on *earth* would you inflate the parafoil? The whole point of the thing is that it's self-inflated by forward air movement... pressurising it before takeoff either requires it to expand to ridiculous size at the maximum altitude, or it leaks most of its filling on the way up - which leaves it somewhat deflated on the way down.

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Re: parafoil and stabilty.

Why on *earth* would you inflate the parafoil?

It won't be inflated during ascent, but the person who made the CGI vid either doesn't understand that or did know but chose to ignore the fact. Either way, the vid doesn't look like what the real thing will look like.

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I thought that looked odd

But the article does suggest that the parafoil is already deployed during the freefall. (If you've got a capsule full of tanked up rich people it's probably advisable to end the freefall as gently as possible.) And since there's probably insufficient air density at the release altitude to reliably inflate the parafoil (correct me if I'm wrong) I suspect the idea is to use some sort of lightweight frame attached to the balloon. (Or maybe, heaven forbid, a truss.) The animation shows a fan of cables attached to the centre of parafoil and the capsule itself supported by parafoil lines which doesn't seem practical but is probably a lot prettier than the reality.

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Nya
Coat

Some sod stole it's wings!

It's a Tie Fighter with the wings nicked off it.

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Unhappy

Terrifying

This thing scares the bejeezus out of me.

Don't get me wrong, I love space and all things spacey. If someone had given me a free ticket for SpaceShipTwo or DragonX or even Soyuz (in fact pretty much any manned launch vehicle from Mercury onward) I would have jumped at the opportunity.

But if you strapped me into this thing (and you'd have to) I know with absolute certainty that I'd hyperventilate all the way up and scream my tits off all the way down.

Maybe it's because traditional rockets and re-entry vehicles are tried and trusted technology. Or that SpaceShipTwo is so aircraft-like in design that there's a perception (possibly erroneous) that a non-catastrophic failure might be recoverable by a skilled pilot.

Or maybe it's simply the knowledge that those other vehicles will pretty much kill you instantly in the event of a serious accident, whereas anything snapping or ripping on this balloon gondola will result in a minutes-long weightless plunge to certain death accompanied by the screams of your fellow victims.

Even the Roton was less scary than this.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Terrifying

"minutes-long weightless plunge to certain death "

'weightless' and 'plunge to certain death' don't seem compatible in the same sentence.

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Eight rich people and a bar?

So you get eight people who can afford the trip. You ply them with alcohol for eight hours. Then you drop them like a stone.

At the very least, they will return to Earth pebble-dashed with diced carrot.

At the worst, they'll do something stupid like interfering with the pilot.

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Re: Eight rich people and a bar?

In my experience, the majority of people who participate in luxury events fall into two distinct categories. Those who understand the realities of the situation and accept them (yes there will be Mosquitos in your luxury African Safari lodge) and those who will bitch about the realities of the situation but whose 'interference' will be a strongly worded letter to the management about how your guide failed to keep the Mosquitos out of Africa.

Years ago my wife signed us up for a series of exotic 'luxury' excursions led by her favorite nature photographer. The photographer and the local guides were wonderful, but after trying it a few times we decided to never do that sort of thing again as the other people were absolutely some of the worst Humans that could ever be designed.

I wish all these balloononauts all the best, but I would rather be locked in a portable toilet at a music festival that's filled with angry bees than to be in this pod with a lot of entitled knobs.

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Re: Eight rich people and a bar?

Who said Big Brother was a dead format?

Youtube gold!

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Headmaster

Re: Eight rich people and a bar?

@don - "I would rather be locked in a portable toilet at a music festival that's filled with angry bees . . ."

Well, if the music festival was filled with angry bees then I'd probably lock myself in a portable toilet too!

The sentiment is shared, however. I think the process would be one of starting as strangers, quickly becoming friends as you bond over the wonder and appreciate how small and precious all life is and how majestic the world that puts up with us, then followed very shortly after by an intense hatred of them all, culminating in the fervent wish that the capsule would indeed plummet back to Earth.

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Happy

Re: Eight rich people and a bar?

Yes, I formed that sentence rather poorly didn't I :)

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That landing could be baaaaaaaad....

Hit a jetstream and your balloon pops somwhere over the Pacific... or New York.... Your landing may suck... Does the capsule float? Can you steer it around skyscrapers?

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Thumb Up

@bpfh "That landing could be baaaaaaaaad..."

Some things tells me that I really want to read their EULA before I book any tickets!

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What keeps this thing from rotating...

...like high altitude balloons seem wont to do?

Nine hours at 90 rpm (+ alcohol) would have me begging for a "gravity powered screaming plunge of terror", anything to Please Make It Stop(tm).

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WTF?

On the phone? Or texting? Gotta keep that social media up to date...

So... you get these rich nabobs stuck together for a bunch of hours of watching out the window. What would you like to bet that more than one of them will want to be on their phone, either talking or texting? Or maybe on their laptop (bitching about the poor signal) so that they can stay up on their email, Facebook, social media, or trade stocks.... Though theoretically it sounds great, the more that I think about it, the less I'd like to do this.

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