You Are Now Free to Move About the Stratosphere

We’re waiting for updates on the planned launch next year of the Virgin Galactic service, but a breathtaking design by the brilliant team at Priestmangoode can get us up in space in style–at a lower price and with a smoother ride.

I’ve previously covered developments on the World View tour by Paragon Space Development Corp, on the Flight Chic News Feed, but this time I wanted to dedicate a post to it, because it has finally gone from neat concept to bucket-list item.

I was thrilled to learn yesterday evening that World View is now ready to take reservations.

The Arizona-based startup, Paragon, has completed its first small-scale test flight and is offering would-be space-floaters a view of the Earth from 19 miles up.

I say space-floaters because, rather than being shot up in a rocket and landed on a jet (as with Virgin Galactic) the World View Voyager experience consists of flying up in a helium balloon and then smoothly floating down by parachute–actually a steerable parafoil.

The cost per ticket will be $75,000 (compared to the cool quarter-Mil to ride on Virgin Galactic, or the staggering $51 Million that Sarah Brightman reportedly bid the Russians to let her hit the ultimate high-C).  The space-pod will carry six passengers and two pilots on a trip which the company describes as “safely and securely sailing at the very threshold of the heavens, skimming the edge of space for hours.”  Sounds nice, right?  Paragon expects passengers will be able to ride in the Voyager vehicle by 2016.

No, it’s not the same as the jet-fueled rush of riding a rocket ship, floating in a gravity-free environment, then flying back down.  But for anyone who wants a prolonged, chilled-out space-view without the potential side-effects of that jet propulsion, it’s a nice alternative.

The Voyager will go twice as high as commercial jets, so it’s still a view we’re unlikely to see in our lives.  By comparison, it’s affordable.  (It’s still out of my price range, but something one could conceivably save towards and still having enough in the bank to pay for tuna after retirement.)

Paragon did its testing with a scale demonstration vehicle, named Tycho, about one-tenth the size Voyager will ultimately be. According to reports, Tycho was off the ground for more than five hours during its maiden voyage on June 18.

Tycho launched from the Roswell International Air Center in Roswell, New Mexico, at 7:45 a.m. and rose 120,000 feet.  Surprisingly, no one called in a UFO sighting, and you’d think that would have been a perfect opportunity.

The test flight reportedly focused on proving the launch and ground operations, the redundant landing system, parafoil aerodynamics and precision-guided landing, but the Voyager vehicle is still in the development phase and has to meet the same FAA safety requirements as a manned spacecraft orbiting Earth.

The sleek modern and–let’s admit–gorgeous capsule was designed by the talented team at Priestmangoode, London, who are also responsible for beautiful aircraft cabins, hotel spaces, railway designs, and a number of other cutting-edge design innovations–including the lovely Wi-Fi box from TDC which allows me to post this story on Flight Chic.

Have a look for yourself in the video below, and start making plans.

Virgin Galactic will be no-doubt be a thrilling experience, once it takes off–but for now, floating up then smoothly gliding down sounds pretty good to me.

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