The Tucson-based high-altitude balloon company World View says it navigated one of its balloons on a 16-day flight from Tucson to a landing in northern Nevada from May 18 to June 3. Along the way, the balloon successfully "loitered" over the Grand Canyon and parts of northern Nevada, staying in place by changing its altitude to catch different wind currents.
"It's something we're quite proud of. It's something that we've long been working towards, and it's nice to be able to see all of the fruits of our labor coming to bear here and the team is quite excited," said World View CEO Ryan Hartman.
Hartman says World View will spend the rest of this year working out the manufacturing process and other details, before it starts to look for paying clients early next year, "completing all of the engineering and maturing the product, while we're also maturing our production line, training the people that we need to be able to operate the system, and really preparing ourselves for our go-to market," Hartman said.
Most of us learned as children that when you let go of a helium balloon, it's at the mercy of the wind. Making a balloon go where you want, and having it stay on target, is hard.
"One of the challenges with operating in the stratosphere is the understanding of what the stratospheric winds are going to do many days out. It's something that's not well known," Hartman said.
World View's balloons are controlled remotely. Each one carries a smaller set of balloons, located beneath the large main gas bag, which are inflated or deflated to change the craft's buoyancy. By changing altitude, it can catch wind currents heading in a desired direction, or move to a calm altitude to stay in place.
World View hopes to begin booking commercial payloads next year. Those could include sensors to monitor forest fires, emergency communication links, or telescopes for astronomy.