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Balloon Spaceflight One Step Closer to 2016 Tourism Goal

Jun 26, 2014 11:45 AM EDT

Space tourism company World View successfully launched and landed their first test flight of a balloon-based "edge of space" craft, which ascended to an altitude of 120,000 feet on Tuesday.

Launching from the Roswell International Air Center in Roswell, New Mexico, this was the first test flight for the World View system, and "validated the full flight profile of the spaceflight system," according to a company press release.

"We couldn't be any more excited about the results from this test flight," said Jane Poynter, CEO of World View. "It represents a foundational achievement that moves us one step closer to offering a life-changing experience to our Voyagers."

According to World View, the company hopes to have space tourists, whom the company calls "Voyagers," floating peacefully at the edge of Earth's atmospheres by 2016, providing them with a stunning 360-degree view of the Earth below - a sight once exclusive to astronauts and video recordings.

However, this week's flight test is just the first of many, and the craft is only 10 percent of the size of the company's final high-altitude balloon design.

While the test "Tycho" vehicle was not to scale to the final Voyager vehicle, World View plans to make significant use of the data collected during this five-hour test flight. Engineers were focused primarily on the launch and ground operations, redundant landing system, precision guided landing and parafoil aerodynamics - making sure they functioned as intended.

According to World View - a subsidiary of Paragon Space Development Corporation - after a two hour sailing session at around 100,000 feet, tourists will descend back to Earth after the Voyager capsule detaches itself from the massive balloon that brought it up. At 50,000 feet, a specially designed high-altitude parasail is deployed to slow the craft's decent back to Earth.

The Voyager is currently still in development, but World View expects to be lifting space tourists at the cost of $75,000 a person by 2016.

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