When World View arrived on the space tourism scene in 2013, it had planned to start sending humans into the stratosphere in balloons in the year 2016. It has fallen a little short of that goal, but all is not lost as 2017 will become the year the private company did send a KFC chicken sandwich to the edge of space.
World View's ultimate aim is to carry not just human explorers into the stratosphere for a look around, but also communications instruments, telescopes and remote sensors. Its vehicle of choice for this objective is the so-called Stratollite, a remotely controlled high-altitude balloon designed to use stratospheric winds to steer toward different locations.
One day, World View says its Stratolite platform will be able to maintain a position over a desired location for months on end, but as it stands the previous test flights have spanned six to 12 hours. When it launches with a KFC Zinger spicy chicken sandwich packed into its payload module later this month, it will stay airborne for four days (if all goes to plan).
"The Stratollite is spearheading a new market for data collection of our planet, the environment and human activity from a perch at the very edge of space," said Jane Poynter, World View founder and CEO. "This next mission will be our first attempt to really push the envelope with a flight designed to test, for the very first time, all the integrated critical systems needed to bring this Stratollite online for commercial markets."
So it seems gimmicky, but the partnership actually serves a very practical purpose for World View, with KFC financing a part of the vehicle development and helping to raise the profile of the test. To that end, the flight will be live streamed via KFC's social media channels so any parties interested in seeing some high-flying chicken can tune in.
"This is an R&D shakedown mission, and as with all things R&D, there's a very real chance some of the new Stratollite systems won't operate nominally," said Taber MacCallum, World View co-founder and chief technology officer. "In any case, World View is excited to take the public along for this ride. So through KFC's live downlink, we invite you to join the cruise."
The launch window will open on June 21. You can check out the promo video below.
Source: World View