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World View tests a small version of its balloon-powered spacecraft

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World View, the company that plans to offer relatively affordable trips to the edge of space using ginormous helium balloons, has successfully completed its first major test flight. While it aims to use balloons the size of a football stadium for the actual flights, the one it tested is a scaled-down version carrying a replica spacecraft. The test system reached an altitude of 100,475 feet, which means the company reached its goal: it promised to take passengers 100,000 feet (around 20 miles) up in the air inside a capsule for one to two hours, after all. That's about 40 miles below sub-orbital space, but it's still high enough for passengers to clearly see the curvature of our planet.

The actual spacecraft will be large enough to carry six passengers and two crew members/pilots. Having pilots on board is a necessity, because while winds will carry the vehicle upwards, the system's designed to shed the balloon before descent. The pilots will then be in charge of flying and landing the capsule. World View wants to be able to start offering flights for $75,000 per seat starting in 2017, but before that happens, it still has to test the full-sized, actual balloon and spacecraft.

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