The entire system is designed and tested to be incredibly safe. From the design of the spaceflight capsule to the helium-filled zero-pressure balloon flight system and the patented parafoil landing system, safety at every step is our primary objective. We have also designed several redundant safety measures if any of the primary safety measures malfunction during flight. For instance, if the parafoil system fails during landing, we also have a backup parachute system that would be deployed to gently slow and land the capsule.
No spacesuit is necessary for a World View flight. The capsule is pressurized, much like a commercial airplane cabin, meaning you can wear everyday street clothes during your flight.
None! Due to the gentle nature of the ascent and descent at normal gravity–and because there will be two crew members aboard each flight–no special training is required. The crew will perform a brief safety demonstration before liftoff, very similar to the safety demonstration you would receive before a commercial airplane flight. We will, however, provide familiarization briefings in advance of your flight to better understand your capsule and how to maximize the personal impact of your journey.
Yes! Balloon physics are very predictable. Once we know the weight of the object we intend to lift and the altitude we intend to lift it to, we can calculate precisely how large a balloon–and precisely how much lifting gas–we will need to effectively lift our payload. And it is not just theoretical. We have already successfully lifted 5 large-mass test payloads in flights that would be comparable to our Explorer capsules to the stratosphere before, so we are confident in the balloon physics and our flight system.
For many years, World View flights have used high-altitude zero-pressure balloons, which means that the pressure inside the balloon is equal to the pressure outside the balloon. In the event of a puncture, leak or hole, the balloon would not “pop” and cause a sudden freefall. Instead, the outcome would be very benign: helium would slowly leak out of the balloon and the balloon and capsule would eventually start to slowly lose altitude. Even if there was a large tear in the balloon, it would take several hours for the balloon to slowly float to the ground. Additionally, because World View balloons are filled with helium, a safe, non-flammable gas, we eliminate the risk of explosion.
World View designs and manufactures zero-pressure balloons for its flights. Zero-pressure balloons are made of thin plastic film, called polyethylene, which is about the thickness of plastic sandwich wrap. Zero-pressure balloons are unique in the fact that they have escape ducts to normalize the pressure in the balloon. Additionally, the balloons have a valve at the top that can open and close to allow helium to leave the balloon. These openings allow gas to escape and prevent the pressure inside the balloon from building up during gas expansion as the balloon rises above Earth’s surface. As the balloon rises through Earth’s atmosphere, helium in the balloon expands and fills the balloon to a size that is big enough to fit an entire football stadium inside of it!
At launch, the balloon will stand 550 feet tall, with all the helium molecules condensed at the top of the balloon in an 80-feet-diameter bubble. At apogee, the balloon will expand to a diameter of 340 feet and an internal volume of 17,000,000 cubic feet.
On the ground, where the atmosphere is thickest, the helium molecules inside of the zero-pressure balloon remain condensed, occupying only a small portion of the balloon. As the balloon rises and the atmosphere gets thinner, the helium atoms expand to fill the rest of the balloon. At its highest point, when the helium has filled the entire balloon, the balloon is large enough to fit an entire football stadium inside.
No, you are not going to space, and you will not become an astronaut on a World View flight. The astronaut title is reserved for people who have exited Earth’s atmosphere and entered outer space. Recently, there has been debate as to where space “begins.” The reason for the debate is that once you get above the thickest parts of the atmosphere, entry into space is a very gradual one; there is not a sharp boundary of outer space. Depending on the governing body, space arbitrarily begins at anywhere from 50 miles above Earth’s surface to over 600 miles above Earth’s surface when you truly escape the thinnest parts of Earth’s atmosphere (for context, the International Space Station orbits at around 200 miles above Earth’s surface).
You will land in a specified landing zone relatively near your departure spaceport and will then be transported back to the spaceport. Because your ascent and descent are vertical, there is minimal horizontal trajectory, which means you land near where you depart.
The parafoil landing system slows the capsule down to a gentle touch down on the ground. Additionally, due to the horizontal landing trajectory of the parafoil landing system (versus a vertical landing that happens under a parachute system), much of the impact force is displaced laterally away from the capsule. This allows the capsule to land very gently on landing gear that cushions any residual impact. Because of the gliding landing of the parafoil and and landing gear design, it will feel very similar to landing on a commercial airplane (if not a little gentler).
Because you are not orbiting Earth, the Earth will not rotate beneath you; you will see the same section of the planet during the duration of your flight. This allows you to fully experience and appreciate a fixed vantage point for an extended period, which is key to the profound impact of your flight. You will lift off from the spaceport before dawn, allowing you to see the sun slowly move across Earth. As you watch Earth move from night to day, you will see a clear line move across the surface of Earth. This is called the Terminator Line. This will be a dramatic experience that will only be fully appreciated from a fixed vantage point above Earth. When orbiting Earth in the ISS, astronauts have noted that they are moving so quickly across the surface of Earth that it is difficult to watch the Sunrise and set over a particular city and truly appreciate the majesty of the Terminator Line between Earth night and day sides.
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