back to article Balloon-lofted space podule hits 30,000m

US space flight outfit World View has successfully test flown a 1/10 scale model of its balloon-lofted passenger podule, and reckons it'll be ready to welcome paying customers aboard the full-fat version in 2017. The gondola hit 30,624 metres (100,475ft) before detaching from the mighty helium-filled orb, after which it …

  1. knarf

    Look Kinda Scary I would need the bar

    I'm sure it would be a fantastic experience, but gliding down to earth from 100K feet with a parachute I would need a lot of strong liquid courage.

    1. TitterYeNot

      Re: Look Kinda Scary I would need the bar

      "gliding down to earth from 100K feet with a parachute I would need a lot of strong liquid courage."

      As the space equivalent zone extends upwards from around 60,000 feet (i.e. bugger all atmosphere in terms of slowing down with a parachute or stopping your precious bodily fluids from boiling), I think 'gliding' is an ever so slightly optimistic marketing term for the first 40,000 feet of descent.

      'Freefalling' would be a kind way of putting it, others may prefer 'plummeting', 'plunging' or 'hurtling' as a more accurate description.

      Either way, those consuming a lot of strong liquid courage to cope with the sensation might find that most of said liquid has somehow found its way into their pants.

      1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

        Re: Look Kinda Scary I would need the bar

        I do hope the toilet has a locking lid, otherwise your liquid courage will be floating in droplet form around the room when the balloon detaches. God forbid you go up after a curry.

      2. Rafael 1

        Re: strong liquid courage

        I'll bet they serve Johnny Walker Red Label, at {$,£,€} 100 a dose. Yuck.

      3. PNGuinn
        Joke

        Re: Look Kinda Scary I would need the bar @TYN

        Or dropping like Talktalk's share price?

        C'mon commentards - lets have some erudite suggestions here.

      4. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Look Kinda Scary I would need the bar

        might find that most of said liquid has somehow found its way into their pants

        I'm guessing more of it will end up on the outside of the passengers' clothes, along with other assorted stomach contents.

        I'll just add this to the list of Things I Never Want to Do.

        (Mind, I have no beef with those who are inclined to ride a balloon up and fall/glide back down. Just don't see the appeal myself.)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Look Kinda Scary I would need the bar

      From the headline photo, it looks like you're going to be swinging around too much to drink anything. Probably a good job too, as anything aimed at the lavvy is likely to end up all over the floor and walls. I assume that the interior can just be hosed down after each flight.

  2. Sir Sham Cad

    Initial plummet control

    I assume the pilot controls when the podule detaches rather than random balloon burst. Because once that initial descent begins I don't want to know what happens to the contents of the bar and lavatory durning the sudden screamy, stomach-churny death-plunge.

    1. Swiss Anton

      Re: Initial plummet control

      Would this be part of the seamless transition from ascent to descent?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Helium balloons

    It's a good job that Helium is such a renewable resource here on Earth, and is not used for anything important like medicine, so we have an unlimited supply to blow on tourism and frivolous publicity stunts.

    1. The First Dave Silver badge

      Re: Helium balloons

      To be fair, this might encourage a little more research into making Helium out of Hydrogen, of which we _do_ have plenty.

      1. Hairy Spod

        Re: Helium balloons

        As I understand it, outside of replicating a supernova (please dont) very hard to do, probably better off trying to make the almost just as impossible and not likely to ever see vacuum baloon

        1. marioaieie

          Re: Helium balloons

          wait, what? You just need simple fusion of hydrogen to get helium. You need Supernovas to get above iron.

          Still, I'm not sure how "simple" fusion is. We can do it in the labs, it's just not giving us more energy that we put in, but if the point is to produce helium, not energy it might work. Again, I don't know how convenient this is, but it is done already in the labs.

      2. boltar Silver badge

        Re: Helium balloons

        "To be fair, this might encourage a little more research into making Helium out of Hydrogen, of which we _do_ have plenty."

        Fleischmann & Pons, is that you??

        Seriously - if you don't count the H-bomb our current fusion abilities are pretty pathetic which is why the fusion reactor is 10 years away and always will be. To make a useful amount of helium via fusion is way beyond our current capabilities.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Helium balloons

      Yep, I'm glad this company has perfected the Helium generator. No more worries about running out of Helium needed for our medical equipment or for welding critical structures. They can just whip up another batch of fresh, pure, sweet-smelling Helium and send another podule full of yuppie, adventure-seeking rich people to the upper atmosphere. That's a fucking great idea. Good work, guys, one of you should win a Nobel prize.

      1. Schnoerkelman
        Mushroom

        Re: Helium balloons

        Running out of helium? Not really. No need for fusion here at home, the hard work's already been done long ago and far away. Helium is generated naturally by alpha decay all the time.

        "Most terrestrial helium present today is created by the natural radioactive decay of heavy radioactive elements (thorium and uranium, although there are other examples), as the alpha particles emitted by such decays consist of helium-4 nuclei. This radiogenic helium is trapped with natural gas in concentrations up to 7% by volume, from which it is extracted commercially by a low-temperature separation process called fractional distillation."

        More here from Worstall@Forbes

        http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2015/06/18/were-really-not-about-to-run-out-of-helium-no-please-stop-it-were-not/

        1. Vic
          Joke

          Re: Helium balloons

          More here from Worstall@Forbes

          Are we still allowed to quote him here?

          Vic.

    3. Ilmarinen

      Re: Helium balloons

      Yes, hydrogen would be much better, and gives slightly better lift too - which will be worth a lot at the extremes of achievable altitude.

      Funny how hydrogen is *Bad* in balloons (because "Zeppelin") but *good* in cars (because "Green").

      (although hydrogen is actually used by the competition balloon folks)

      1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

        Re: Hydrogen

        It would certainly make you more mindful of the 'no smoking' rules

        1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

          Re: Hydrogen

          "

          It would certainly make you more mindful of the 'no smoking' rules

          "

          Why? People smoke in a car despite being closer to a more dangerous* highly inflammable substance than the people in the gondola will be.

          *More dangerous because if it leaks it forms a puddle with associated bubble of explosive gas that stays around, while leaking hydrogen will usually dissipate within seconds.

      2. PNGuinn
        FAIL

        Re: Helium balloons @Il'n

        Except Hydrogen in cars is VERY not green.

        Maybe I should rephrase that. Green by greenie nazi definition maybe but in actual scientific and practical engineering fact another high fossil fuel consuming disaster until we get enough nuclear leccy to cover peak load and need something to use it for at other times.

        Even then there are very good reasons NOT to use it for motor fuel.

      3. Tom 13

        Re: hydrogen is *Bad* in balloons (because "Zeppelin") but *good* in cars

        Last I checked, they were pushing methane for the Green cars not hydrogen. Granted I wouldn't want to hit/be hit by a vehicle powered by either, but the differences are important.

    4. DropBear Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Helium balloons

      "It's a good job that Helium is such a renewable resource here on Earth"

      Pshhh, that's easy - you just make the balloon come back as well, with another parachute...

    5. Tom 13

      Re: Helium balloons

      You must be a riot at a kids birthday party.

  4. A Non e-mouse Silver badge
    Joke

    ...the capsule is "designed to land intact"

    Yeah, but what about its contents?

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge
      Joke

      No worries. Just hose out the interior and bring on new "contents". I would suspect that getting qualified pilots for more than one launch would be a problem.

      1. Fibbles

        Trouble keeping qualified pilots?

        Two words: remote control.

      2. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
        Joke

        If you're planning on hosing out the interior, there's no need for a qualified pilot. Certified will do fine.

        1. Tom 13
          Joke

          @Allan George Dyer

          Probably even cheaper and easier to just go for one who is certifiable.

  5. Roger Kynaston
    Pint

    WANT!!!

    Beer because of the bar but I would be too busy watching to need a drink.

    Could we jump out of it with a parachute?

  6. Your alien overlord - fear me
    Paris Hilton

    Do you think they'd allow you to open the door quickly to chuck out a paper plane?

    Paris, because there is no Lohan icon.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Do you think they'd allow you to open the door quickly to chuck out a paper plane?

      No, there's too much danger of someone dropping a penny.

  7. Graham Jordan

    Shut up and take my money

    Well. If I had it.

  8. John G Imrie

    More delecate equipment?

    So you can get up to 30000m with little or no vibration, this could mean cheaper launches of sensitive equipment as you don't have to protect it as much.

    By the way can't you recover a lot of the helium by sucking it back into tanks in the pod prier to disengaging the balloon.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: More delecate equipment?

      By the way can't you recover a lot of the helium by sucking it back into tanks in the pod prier to disengaging the balloon.

      Apparently the additional weight of the compressor, storage tanks, and power supply makes this infeasible, according to some discussions of LTA flight I've seen.

  9. PaulyV

    Helium

    I never considered Helium to be rare, and thanks to here I have just read up about it.

    With that in mind how expensive is it?

    1. Tom 13

      Re: Helium

      Cost, pure: $5.2 per 100g

      http://www.chemicool.com/elements/helium.html

      No price listed for bulk helium. Hard to tell from the balloon canister ads.

  10. AndrueC Silver badge
    Joke

    How do you 'enjoy' a lavatory? No, on second thoughts don't answer. I've only just recovered from earing the camel toe :-/

    1. AbelSoul
      Trollface

      re: just recovered from earing the camel toe

      Earing the camel toe, you say?

      Pray tell, what kind of deviant activity is this?

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: re: just recovered from earing the camel toe

        I was curious about that myself ;)

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wi-Fi and a bar?

    Don't get me wrong, I love Wi-Fi and bars. But I really can't imagine who would be blasé enough to want them on the way to space and back.

    Have we lost so much as humans that we aren't excited by things like mind-bending views of our planet?

    1. MacroRodent Silver badge

      Re: Wi-Fi and a bar?

      How else would you impress your Facebook friends with a status update from 30km up?

    2. Tom 13
      Joke

      Re: Wi-Fi and a bar?

      I understand your WiFi gets better the more bars you have.

      Have we lost so much as humans that we aren't excited by things like mind-bending views of our planet?

      No, but you will need to post them on Farcebook or Tw@tter.

  12. Gary Bickford

    Not space, tossing away helium, and where will the balloon end up?

    I'm sorry, despite the company's name and FAA stipulation, IMHO that's not space. I would be happier with their system if they weren't letting a large amount of helium go bye-bye. And I don't see any reference to a method for managing the balloon after separation - will it just float around for a while, acting as a hazard to aviation? (Perhaps it has a 'dump valve' and a radar reflector, which would be better than nothing.) For the cost of another two hundred kilos the system could decompress mist of the helium and open its own parachute, ride down with the capsule, or (coolest but most difficult) zip open a couple of seams in the balloon to become its own parachute.

  13. Little Mouse

    Football Stadium?

    Would that be a stadium for "proper" football, or for one of those bastardised versions of Rugger favoured by the colonies?

    1. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      Re: Football Stadium?

      What the author should have said was that it was 158-and-some-change Olympic-sized swimming pools in volume. Just because NASA adopts Football Stadiums as their standard is no reason to go weak at the knees and shy away from El Reg standard units of measure..

    2. Tom 13

      Re: Football Stadium?

      Well, if you're looking at size, then a proper football stadium WOULD be the ones over on my side of the pond.

      According to Wiki your prized stadium in Wembley ranks a mere 19th on the world size charts. I spend at least one game a year at number 3 on the list.

  14. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    Make the ride even more thrilling

    and use hydrogen...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Make the ride even more thrilling

      I can't see the issue with using hydrogen. If it goes pop before launch, you are happily inside a spacecraft sitting on the ground. Once you have launched, where is the ignition source? And if it does go pop at altitude the flame goes up, you go down, and then you deploy your chutes. And no worry about static at landing, because you aren't bringing the hydrogen back.

  15. hatti

    I wonder

    If this is where Dido Harding is hiding until the debacle at Talk Talk blows over

    1. PNGuinn
      Go

      Re: I wonder

      Well it'd certainly improve her credibility by giving her a nice squeeky voice.

      Do you think she deserves the Darwin award though?

      1. hatti

        Re: I wonder

        If she apologised in a squeaky voice I think I would find it easier to forgive her once I'd finished laughing. Have a squeaky upvote. Not sure about a Darwin award candidate, more bullshitter of the year candidate.

  16. TeeCee Gold badge
    Alert

    Sounds familiar.

    .... "designed to land intact". This is courtesy of a skid system, and promises to be an entertaining experience.

    Is that a direct quote from Messerschmitt's marketing puff for the 163 "Komet" that they've reused there?

  17. Camilla Smythe

    I'm the pilot.

    Just got to work out how to explain why the Yuppies look like they have been blended when we get back to Earth.

  18. x 7

    shortage of Helium? Use Hydrogen instead. Just whats needed for the overpaid wasters who'll be taking the ride. With luck one of them will be a smoker

  19. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    This was the planned method of eventually landing Gemini capsules if I remember right. Most of the radical ideas incorporated into Project Gemini were abandoned so Apollo could be fast tracked. Apollo designs followed more trad ideas used in Mercury.

  20. Black Betty

    Why not use hydrogen?

    Twice the loft:- so smaller balloon, bigger payload or higher altitude.

    A reusable dirigible could lift and drop gondolas every few hours simply by pumping gas into and out of a lift bladder.

    The gondolas themselves could be given an aerodynamic shape. A lifting body which would slowly spiral to ground over a period of an hour or two.

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