High-Flying Balloon Dispute Follows ‘World View’ Announcement

The newly announced World View balloon flight concept shares a number of “striking” similarities to an older proposal for ‘near-space flight experience’ balloon rides, according to the head of the zero2infinity Inbloon project.

Both concepts are competing in the nascent high-altitude balloon market, which would see these craft fly high in the stratosphere with paying clients and/or payloads on board. Some of them would be paying tourists to look at the view, while others would be institutions looking to get above most of the Earth’s atmosphere for scientific and other purposes.

The groundwork for zero2infinity’s Inbloon has been in the works since about 2002, founder Jose Mariano Lopez Urdiales said. So far, the Spanish company has run three test flights with micro versions of its balloon; the last one was in September. A ride high in the atmosphere would (when it happens) cost the equivalent of $150,000 (110,000 Euros).

World View — backed by Arizona’s Paragon Space Development Corp., which is involved in several startup space projects — announced in late October that it would offer rides to the high atmosphere for $75,000 each. Few details were provided, but Paragon president Jane Poynter told Universe Today that more announcements will come. She added that the company has been thinking about this kind of work seriously for at least a decade.

The companies were in talks for Paragon to provide life support systems for Inbloon, Urdiales said, but Paragon decided to go its own route. The World View announcement came shortly after Urdiales was told of Paragon’s decision, he added.

“We were speaking to them for a couple of years. They learned about our business and what we were doing,” Urdiales said in late October.

“A month ago or so, they said ‘We’re not going to be able to supply you. We don’t think we’re going to be able to export this to Spain.’ And then we said, ‘Fine, we’re talking to other suppliers’ … and then they launched this thing. The commonalities are striking.”

As examples, Urdiales said a lot of the marketing language was similar and that the artists’ concepts of the balloon designs for the two companies also appeared to be about the same. He added, however, that he is not planning to pursue any formal action because he would rather focus on running safe flights. The first human-rated Inbloon flight is expected in 2014, he said.

“The hard part is getting the investment, and doing the flight. Both things are pretty hard, and require a level of integrity. Otherwise the tests don’t work and you break something and you [could] kill people.”

World View told Universe Today that Paragon has been pursuing this idea independently for years, long before they heard of Urdiales’ plans. The company did not comment on Urdiales’ claims about previous business talks.

World View Experience.mp4 from World View on Vimeo.

“Let me start by emphasizing that we are not duplicating anyone’s plans. The World View concept has been an interest of ours for many years,” Paragon’s Poynter told Universe Today in an e-mail.

“It is worth mentioning, I think, that the idea of human flight using high altitude balloons is not a recent development. In fact, the origins of this idea date back to the 1950s with the work of Otto Winzen and others.  As for our own origins, [co-founder] Taber [MacCallum] went to high-altitude balloon launches as a child, as his father is an astrophysicist and was studying gamma-ray astronomy using high-altitude balloon launches of telescopes.

“That experience translated,” she added, “later in life, to Paragon’s work on a commercial airship project a decade ago for tourism and cargo. We began developing World View long before we heard about Jose and his initiative. In fact, we’ve been looking at commercial uses of lighter-than-air craft for a long time.”

The URL for World View, worldviewexperience.com, was registered Aug. 24, 2013, according to public domain records. Inbloon’s URL, inbloon.com, was registered May 6, 2009.

6 Replies to “High-Flying Balloon Dispute Follows ‘World View’ Announcement”

  1. Tourism (not to mention party balloons and such) is a huge waste of the non-renewable and very limited supply of helium which is critical for industrial, scientific, and medical use. Use needs to be regulated and banned for anything frivolous.

  2. Let’s bump this up a notch. Rather than use Helium to go to the top of the world, switch to Hydrogen (Danger! Explosive!), and at the apex pump oxygen from cylinders to a small rocket for boost. Use the empty shell as a solar sail. At very least, it can be used for freight. more @ http://www.h2liftship.com

  3. I would have been more impressed with zero2infinity’s video if they’d shown their balloon actually reaching extreme altitudes. Wha hoppened? Gottah leak?

    I would have been more impressed with WorldViewExperience’s video if they’d actually shown a real capsule and balloon.

  4. Hydrogen, handled with care, can be a viable lifting gas for such a venture. According to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta website, inflating a racing balloon with helium gas would cost $3500 in the US (helium costs two to three times more in Europe) while filling the envelope with H2 would cost “about $1,000.” (made from cheap natural gas of course) According to Moses Chan, Professor of Physics at Penn State, “It is estimated that if cost was not an issue, the amount of helium gas trapped in current and future gas wells worldwide could last between 200 or 300 years.” Using hydrogen as substitute or mixed with a quantity of helium (to reduce flammability) for balloons could extend that timeline for a long, long while…

    In a distant-future theme park:
    “Mommy can I have a balloon?”
    “Sure, honey. Which one?”
    “The red one!”
    “That’ll be a $25 dollar copper,” said the robot.
    “OK. Thanks,” they exchange a coin for a balloon. She raps the Velcro strap around the child’s wrist, connected to a string attached to the balloon.
    “Here you go, honey.”
    “Thanks mom!”
    “Careful,” the robot warned cheerfully, “contains 40 percent hydrogen. When it looses lift, please deposit to your nearest recycling center. Earn a 50 percent tax rebate after every return.”
    “Right, thanks,” said the mother.

  5. seems like the sort of thing that could really mess up…. What does the plane do for the bloom, take it up? Where do you sit, in that other smaller balloon, suspended by just two cables and transparent material filled with helium? Yikes. How does it come down? The world-view one has skies and a parachute, hhhmmmm, steering may be an issue, and I hope the capsule is padded. You need a lot more to sell me. But is it possible to reuse the helium, depending on how it comes down?

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