March 3, 2020 – World View plans to build and deploy a fleet of Stratollites, known as World View Orbits, over North and Central America starting this summer. Tom Pirrone, Senior VP, Business Development made the announcement today at the Next-Generation Suborbital Research Conference in Broomfield, Colorado.
With the maturation of altitude-control technology over the past three and a half years, World View is now poised to take advantage of the world’s wind supply. Stratollites will use wind patterns — likened to “race tracks” — to fly in controllable, repeatable and predictable orbits, without propulsion.
“We are excited to be on the cusp of delivering high value services to initial customers in North and Central America,” said World View President and CEO Ryan Hartman.
With Stratollite’s ability to persist over areas of interest for extended periods of time, and the ability to capture real-time images, the vehicle can be used for targeted imagery applications with high revisit rates, high image resolution and high temporal resolution. The Stratollite is also designed to carry a wide variety of sensor packages and payloads, including electro-optical, near infrared, hyperspectral, synthetic aperture radar, and full motion video.
“As we continue our efforts to build out the stratospheric ecosystem, we are utilizing the best the industry has to offer in terms of commercial instrumentation. However, we are also in the process of implementing a custom electro-optical (EO) sensor to provide higher resolution imagery at better than 5cm GSD,” said World View Senior Vice President of Engineering and Manufacturing Dr. Matteo Genna.
Technology is used to monitor the wind, which can propel the balloon in any of the four directions, depending on the altitude of the balloon and the desired direction. One of the unique aspects of the Stratollite is its ability to land in a pre-determined area and to re-launch as necessary. This allows for continuous upgrades and enhancements during operational services delivery.
World View Orbits will begin with 4-6 Stratollites on the North American Orbit this year. The Company hopes to increase this number to twenty in the future. It will take 16 days for each Stratollite to complete a circuit, so having twenty units in the air will allow for daily photos of target sites and some elasticity and deviation from the pattern when necessary.
World View has previously tested Stratollites on missions up to 42 days in length and is currently working on Stratollite 2.0 for longer duration missions. In the meantime, the balloons will complete two “racetrack” cycles before landing.
World View plans to launch multiple missions in the near future and will increase the cadence of its flight operations as it adds other tracks around the world. World View envisions hundreds of Stratollites flying in the future and will likely move to a water-based landing and takeoff.
The company once planned to offer tourist rides to the stratosphere, in a capsule suspended below a balloon.