A company called World View is about to launch fried chicken inside a space capsule.
The chicken will launch from Tucson, Arizona, attached to the end of a high-altitude balloon. Although the fast food brand claims this will be a “space sandwich,” they will miss that mark. The edge of space is about 62 miles above the ground, whereas World View’s Stratollite — a new craft designed to fly small payloads into Earth’s stratosphere — will loft the sandwich about 15 miles up.
“Stratollites can carry a wide variety of commercial payloads (sensors, telescopes, communications arrays, etc.), launch rapidly on demand, and safely return payloads back to Earth after mission completion,” World View said in a press release.
Stratollites are an initial step in World View’s larger goal to launch paying customers more than 19 miles above the Earth.
As a passenger inside the company’s pressurised Voyager craft, which will dangle at the end of a balloon, you’d be able to see the curvature of Earth. The roughly five-hour trip would also include cocktails and stunning views of the stars, though it might set you back more than $US75,000 — about the price of a new Tesla Model X 70D.
Here’s a peek at what it will be like to float at an altitude of 100,000 feet, above 99% of Earth’s atmosphere.
KFC's spicy Zinger chicken sandwich will be launched inside one of these: World View's lightweight Stratollite capsule.
The Stratollite is designed to 'sail' on high-altitude winds for up to 12 hours, though KFC's flight will last four days.
World View has bigger plans than sandwich launches. They eventually want to launch paying customer inside the Voyager: a Winnebago-sized capsule that would fly six passengers and two crew members.
The capsule would offer 360-degree views and internet access, so you could share photos in real-time. There'd even be a bathroom and a bar.
A giant helium-filled polyethylene balloon would loft the cabin into the sky until it's fully inflated.
Once the helium completely fills the balloon, the package would stop ascending as it reached its target altitude -- about 100,000 feet.
To put this into perspective, commercial jets fly at about 45,000 feet, and U2 spy planes speed at around 75,000 feet.
They would also be able to see the curvature of the Earth, which sometimes elicits a cognitive shift in awareness called the 'overview effect.'
Many astronauts report that seeing our planet from such a high perch makes everything that happens on Earth seem tiny and insignificant. Passengers would get to enjoy this view for about 2 hours.
As the capsule starts to descend, the balloon would separate at about 50,000 feet and a ParaWing would glide the capsule down to the landing site.
Depending on the time of year, the distance between the launch and landing site could be anywhere from 0 to 300 miles. A private jet would return the passengers to the launch site after they land.
World View settled into new headquarters at Spaceport Tucson in February 2017. From there, it's developing a suite of such stratospheric balloon-launching endeavours.
According to World View, the aerospace community considers high-altitude ballooning to be dependable and safe.
The team also includes NASA-affiliated scientists like astronaut Mark Kelly, who serves as director of flight crew operations, and Alan Stern, the former head of science at NASA and principal investigator of the New Horizons mission to Pluto.
They performed a successful test launch in the summer of 2014, lifting a much smaller, passenger-less version of the prototype to 120,000 feet.
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