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Record-breaking Flight Brings Space Tourism One Step Closer to Reality

The World View parafoil flying at an altitude of 50,000 feet, breaking the world record for highest parafoil flight.

This week, World View Enterprises, based out of Tucson, Arizona, brought American tourism one step closer to commercial space travel.

The company, which announced its plans to fly customers into the upper stratosphere last year, successfully launched a high-altitude vehicle 120,000 feet into the air above Roswell, New Mexico on Tuesday. According to World View CEO Jane Poynter, the flight set the record for the highest parafoil in history.

The refrigerator-sized test vehicle, Tycho, deployed a parafoil only 10 percent of the size of the one the company hopes to create for its commercial flights, but World View’s employees are optimistic about their ability to use the data they have collected to build a much bigger model.

“The 10-percent parafoil is numerically scalable and the control system is the same, with different software settings,” World View Chief Executive Taber MacCallum told the press after the flight. “So we think right now we can do a 10-percent to full-scale jump, but looking at the data and maybe some more test flights will let us know for sure.”

If things continue to go as planned, the company hopes to begin commercial flights in 2016. The commercial pods they are creating will be big enough to keep up to six passengers and two crew members comfortable while they float 20 miles above the earth. For $75,000 per person, passengers will be able to experience the breathtaking views of the earth from a distance for two hours, before gliding back to the surface under the parafoil.

This is not the only company wanting to break into space tourism, however. Other space tourism ventures across the globe have been racing to be the first to launch us into space. The most notable is New Mexico-based Virgin Galactic.

Virgin Galactic has been working to create commercial spaceships since 2005. The ships, which will leave from a desert-based Spaceport, hope to take passengers 50,000 feet up, higher than World View’s pods, but for a shorter period of time. Virgin Galactic has already begun selling $200,000 tickets for its inaugural trips, which the company claims will take place before the end of this year. But such claims have been made for several years now without any follow through.

Though Poynter said they are in no way competing with other companies, this successful launch means World View may now be in the running to become the first company to bring space travel to the masses.

“It went really, really, really well,” Poynter explained to the The Associated Press. “Actually, the guys hit the ball out of the park. We’re thrilled.”

Image courtesy of World View Enterprises

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