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Space Idle

Company Wants You to Visit Near-Space In Their "Bloon" 135

Posted by samzenpus
from the more-up-than-up dept.
cylonlover writes "While space tourism efforts by the likes of Space Adventures and Virgin Galactic are relying on the tried and true technology of rockets to launch paying customers into space, Barcelona-based company zero2infinity proposes a more leisurely and eco-friendly ride into near-space using a helium balloon called the bloon. Designed to carry passengers to an altitude of 36 km (22 miles), an unmanned scale prototype bloon was flown to an altitude of 33 km (20 miles) last year and the company is already taking bookings for passenger flights that are expected to lift off sometime between 2013 and 2015."

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Company Wants You to Visit Near-Space In Their "Bloon"

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  • Sounds cool (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 18, 2011 @11:28AM (#37130386)

    1) But we're running out of helium.

    2) You want to go up? Book a MiG-25. We already have private "space tourism" at this level of hopelessly deluded definition of "space tourism". And?

    • by wiedzmin (1269816)
      I will consider if their CEO goes up first. So far they've only had an unmanned flight...
      • by Cryacin (657549)
        Did you watch the safety video? Man, it felt like I was being doused with Kool-Aid.
    • by 0123456 (636235)

      Book a MiG-25. We already have private "space tourism" at this level of hopelessly deluded definition of "space tourism".

      a) can a MIG-25 fly at 110,000 feet?
      b) can a MIG-25 fly up there, fly around and return for less than the cost of a balloon flight? Older-generation jet fighters typically cost about $50k an hour, don't they?
      c) can a MIG-25 do that safer than a balloon?
      d) can you eat a meal in the back seat of a MIG-25 while watching the scenery go by?

      All that said for $150k I think I'd just save another $50k and buy a real suborbital flight from Virgin.

      • by couchslug (175151)

        I'd take the kinesthetic experience of the MIG over the balloony visuals any day.

        As a USAF crew chief I got a backseat ride in an F-16D, puked for most of it, and would do it again in a heartbeat!

        Rich Slashdotters:
        Buy the fucking fighter ride. As to safety, balloons don't have flight controls or ejection seats. Ask around and of course cash speaks louder than words. You can figure how much most of their overhead is if you can find local jet fuel prices.

        Quick Google yields this:
        http://www.thirtythousandfeet. [thirtythousandfeet.com]

        • Re:Sounds cool (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @12:38PM (#37131366) Homepage

          I'd take the kinesthetic experience of the MIG over the balloony visuals any day.

          I'll take whatever gets me the closest to seeing the planet earth from space, soonest, and cheapest. I'll worry about other considerations like how exciting the ride itself later when picking my 2nd and subsequent trips. So let's see how it shakes out...

          Mig-29: 22km, available today, $25,000 [bestrussiantour.com] (see the "price list" .pdf link, last page).

          Bloon: 36 km, 2013-2015, and $150,000.

          The Bloon has a significant altitude advantage, but that's irrelevant compared to the price difference! It may get cheaper at some point in the future, but that just means it fails on the 'soonest' criterion. Sure, I may not exactly have $25k (+ travel) lying around to spend on a Mig-29 flight, but it's clearly the best, most feasible option for me in the near future.

          The Mig-29 wins! Then the fact that it's a jet fighter is just awesome-icing on the awesome-cake. :)

        • by MDMurphy (208495)

          Most people don't eat when they are getting laid.

          That's what chocolate pudding skin singles were made for!

    • by Ken_g6 (775014)

      1) But we're running out of helium.

      Which is why they should fill it with hydrogen instead. Keep the balloon in a separate building on the ground; once significantly above the ground the hydrogen should pose no fire threat - it would go up, not down. Plus, hydrogen is lighter, and might get you even higher!

      • I wondered this myself -- first thought was I hope they are using hydrogen, or at least not venting the helium. Nope, helium, and they vent it.

        How retarded! There's so little danger of a hydrogen fire in their case, it can lift so much more or use a smaller envelope, and it is so easy to generate that the cost alone ought to be the deciding factor.

        The only fire danger is in the first few hundred meters of liftoff. Presumably they have emergency parachutes which could take over above that.

        • by Yamioni (2424602)

          I wondered this myself -- first thought was I hope they are using hydrogen, or at least not venting the helium. Nope, helium, and they vent it.

          Dude, just tether the balloon with a cable and tow it back down at the end of the ride. Simple, cheap, effective, and safe.

          • Every tried winding in 30 km of cable? Slower than molasses. People would starve to death.

          • by colinnwn (677715)
            Cable strong enough would be too heavy, and cause too much aerodynamic drag after a couple kilometers.
          • by Yamioni (2424602)
            I'm having trouble believing you guys thought I was serious. :-(
    • Running out of helium? Won't someone think of the children of the future? Those poor kids unable to enjoy chipmunk voices! Oh, the humanity!

      • by edremy (36408)
        Actually, the He situation is both serious and an example of government at it's worst

        He is critical for a ton of stuff involving serious cooling. Ever had an MRI? Superconducting magnets, cooled by liquid He. It's not replaceable since nothing else liquifies at 4K

        The government has run a stockpile [wikipedia.org] for decades, since it's a byproduct of some natural gas wells. But we can't have the government running something successful, so they have to shut down the He reserve. To do this, they are dumping it on t

    • Can't you get something like 10 hours in a MiG-25 for that? That's enough to get a type rating.

  • The company is saving extra energy by employing a strict lower-case policy. Lower case for higher altitude.

  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @11:33AM (#37130460)
    I don't know, but balloons just seem rather unsafe when compared to a jet. If the balloon (or Bloon) pops, you are screwed. If a jet loses power in its engines, it still is a decent enough glider to safely get you to the ground in most cases.
    • Re:Kind of unsafe? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Jeng (926980) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @11:35AM (#37130500)

      It descends on a parachute, I'm sure they even have a back up for that.

      • Let's talk about parachutes. Parachutes only inflate when you're already moving in the direction they want to resist, ie downwards. Even if they start the downward plunge by leaking helium slowly rather than disconnecting the balloon, at some point they have to make the transition. Add that (and I admit ignorance) to the different atmospheric density at 20 miles, with however that may affect descent, and it could be a fairly rough ride back down.

        It's not like I think they haven't planned for it in terms

        • by Dishevel (1105119)

          If it is "Safe but Scary". Can I pay extra and make sure it happens that way?

        • Check out Project Excelsior [wikipedia.org]: 102,800 feet (~19.5 miles), free-falling for 13+ minutes and reaching a speed of 614 mph at -94F...yeah, probably unpleasant and frightening, at least for most people, but definitely survivable.
          • by Amouth (879122)

            I'd pay to do that..

          • Kittinger's impressions when he jumped off that platform at 102k feet was that there is no sense of acceleration, no sense of speed, because you're in a near-vacuum and there are no points of reference at this altitude for you to see how fast you're going. You're too high up to see how fast the ground is coming at you. He had to turn around and look at the gondola rocketing into space to understand that yes indeed, he was falling.

            Besides, eventually you're going to decelerate because the atmosphere is getti

          • Part of my concerns are with the CG rendered, relaxing couches in the video. Are they going to hit negative gees (freefall or upward force) during descent? Do they have specific plans to restrain people to protect against negative gees, or deceleration shocks? I could see seatbelts, but certainly some of their customers would want to be up and about for part of the descent; negative gees are something you rarely see in any reasonable duration.

            But yes, it's definitely survivable, the main question is engi

        • by Ihmhi (1206036)

          You're right! If only those scientists had figured out how to take those giant parachutes and put them on little backpacks for people to wear.

    • by slshwtw (1903272)
      parachute?
    • by gblackwo (1087063)
      So design the capsule as a glider just in case...
    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      No jet that flies that can reach those altitudes is a decent glider. Check out a Mig-25 for example.

      • Re:Kind of unsafe? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Thursday August 18, 2011 @11:55AM (#37130794) Journal

        What about the U-2? (the spyplane, not the awful band)

        • by Chris Burke (6130)

          What about the U-2? (the spyplane, not the awful band)

          Wait wait, let's not be hasty. I would like to see a side-by-side comparison of the high-altitude gliding capabilities of these two options. You know, for, uh, science.

          • The awful band doesn't glide, they rise through the air as Bono is is so full of hot air their overall density is lower than the surrounding atmosphere.

            (Really pretty impressive if you think about it. There is so much hot air in Bono that it counteracts the weight of all the shit he's full of.)
        • by 0123456 (636235)

          What about the U-2? (the spyplane, not the awful band)

          Altitude limit is around 80,000 feet. The balloon would be about 30,000 feet higher.

          I believe all the jets that have gone over 100,000 feet were just performing zoom climbs where you climb until you stall (or push the nose down). That's not really 'flying' in the accepted sense.

        • When they came out with that "Elevation" song, they were talking about their own superiority to bloons?
        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          Does not go as high as we are talking about. Only powered "zoom" climbs get jets this high.

        • by qxcv (2422318)

          The U2 only goes to 70, 000 ft. A lot of cold war aircraft (case in point: SR-71) get undeserved cult followings because people tend to overstate their flight envelopes. Most of those planes do one thing and one thing only, and that is go very, *VERY* fast.

    • by geogob (569250)

      I have to agree. We fly stratospheric balloon for atmospheric research. I wouldn't want to climb into one of those thing... especially for the landing. Even with the chute, that thing still comes down on its crash pads (yes, crash pads) at 10 m/s. You got at least 10g deceleration on impact. Not cool.

      Plus, you'll never get me at 33 km without a pressure suit.

      • by arisvega (1414195)

        You got at least 10g deceleration on impact.

        Where did you get this number from?

        • by sconeu (64226)

          I'm guessing he assumes it take 0.1 seconds to come to a full stop from 10m/s.

          (10m/s)/(0.1s) = 100m/s^2 == 10g's.

          • by geogob (569250)

            No. I assume I can read the data coming from the accelerometers. No further assumption required.

            • by arisvega (1414195)

              No. I assume I can read the data coming from the accelerometers. No further assumption required.

              Fair assumption, calm down now. I also assume that the previous poster meant to make a point that the force that is felt on impact depends on the duration of the impact. That is exactly the reason why I asked you initially where did you get this number from. Anyhow, 10g does not fit very well into the comfort zone (nor do impacts!)

              • by geogob (569250)

                That's a fair question. Asked this way, it will also gets a nice answer.

                So the sensors i'm referring to are on an instrument and not direct on the gondola. That means that the impact goes first through the crash pads (single-use deformation padding) and through cable springs. I don't have any deceleration times in mind, but I will check them out again.

                I have no idea how this relates, for example, to the Soyuz capsule at its landing and how it relates to passenger comfort, be at normal landings we often have

        • by geogob (569250)

          From the accelerometers... that's where the number is coming from. We gave many accelerometers on board (INU, Shock logs, etc.). We registered landings as high as 48g...

      • "Plus, you'll never get me at 33 km without a pressure suit."

        You don't think they'd be doing this WITHOUT a pressure suit, do you??

    • by NonUniqueNickname (1459477) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @11:56AM (#37130820)
      In the unlikely event of the helium balloon bursting, the captain will yell the evacuation procedure in a chipmunk voice and everyone will die, of laughter.
    • by arisvega (1414195)

      If a jet loses power in its engines, it still is a decent enough glider to safely get you to the ground in most cases.

      Unless it is computers doing the actual bookkeeping that makes flight possible, in which case you ease down to the ground as elegantly as a rock.

    • by Syberz (1170343)
      Well, it does have a parachute... sounds just as safe as a jet to me...
    • I launch (fly? whatever) scientific balloons with a gondola of at least 6000 Lbs. I'm sure the passenger craft will be substantially larger but the principles should be similar enough to design. I've had one balloon fail during flight. It was a tear along the bottom portion of the balloon. Since the balloons I use are zero-pressure helium balloons, the gondola was able to float away from the general population and once the gondola was within a safe landing zone the it was separated from the balloon and para

      • Hi Bill, You seem like you have a pretty good working knowledge of zero pressure balloon systems. Would you consider contacting me with more info? foxworthw@gmail.com Thanks in advance,
    • Fighter jets generally rely on ejection seats for situations where they lose power. None of them glide well and many can't glide at all. Parachutes are cheap and the payload for a balloon should be able to use one.

  • Warning! (Score:4, Funny)

    by SethThresher (1958152) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @11:34AM (#37130484)
    Watch out for monkeys throwing pins, those guys will RUIN your day.
  • What kind of "near"? (Score:4, Informative)

    by jimmerz28 (1928616) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @11:34AM (#37130492)

    So if I'm correctly informed from wikipedia (https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Atmosphere_of_Earth) this is still only in the Stratosphere.

    This doesn't seem very "near" space at all...

    • It's about 3x higher and far nearer to space than most people will ever get to experience. It looks pretty cool.
    • Yeah, I was wondering about that. Kind of hard to imagine a helium balloon going any farther than that.

      Let's face it: besides a propulsion technology revolution, or some spacelift or loop, rockets are going to be required at some stage to get "near" space.

    • by geogob (569250)

      You are correct. It doesn't fit in any definition of space. The only other group of people that dare call this altitude space is those kids flying compact cameras on small balloons. Not that this isn't a cool feat, but it isn't space.

      • At a human level, I'd say it's very much like space. Sure, you won't be in micro-gravity, but :

        • - you will die without a pressure suit or a pressured cabin, it's no place for men.
        • - when you look up, it's dark, no more blue. - if in a pressure suit, you can experience scorching heat on the side of your body that's towards the Sun, and freezing cold on the other side at the same time
        • - if you jump from the balloon, you won't experience any speed or acceleration because you're in a near-vacuum, there's not
    • by arisvega (1414195)
      Still, the sky looks black, and you can see Earth's curvature.
    • Near space?

      We're already in space... On Spaceship Earth .. Please take the time to RTFM [bfi.org] :-)

  • scaring soundtrack (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    it's "lucean le stelle" (eng: the stars were shining), but it talks about a man that ig going to die in desperation (".. e muoio disperato") americans calls them "dead man walking"...
    Isn't it funny? Takng off on a experimental vehicle with such a deadful soundtrack?

    p.s.
    the opera is Puccini's "Tosca" and the character singing is Cavaradossi that is going to be executed...
         

  • Damn jetstream! The pickup bus should be here in about 3 days so have a shwarma and make yourself at home.....

  • You sure this wasn't just a threat of violence?

  • by istartedi (132515) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @11:51AM (#37130742) Journal

    Their secret to making the balloon fly higher? Remove letters to reduce weight.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Their secret to making the balloon fly higher? Remove letters to reduce weight.

      Actually, they just took out al.... apparently he was quite heavy.

    • For all intensive purposes,

      the phrase is : for all intents and purposes" just saying

  • I think it's cool that someone is investing in a vision to near-space visitation for the common man (well, common man who's got TONS of money and has zero fear of death).

    A few things that I just can't help but shake my head:

    1) The nice, calm flow of launch-to-landing in the video. It just has that creepy aura of airline emergency landing documentation: all smiles, no fear, no chaos, and dawn your s/oxygen/ether/ mask before helping others!

    2) Helium balloons in space is do-able. But it's just doesn't so

  • Why does the passenger cabin and altitude control system look like a lawn chair and a BB gun?

  • What if there are monkeys with tacks on the clouds?

  • 's all it is.
  • by hackertourist (2202674) <hackertourist@[ ]net.nl ['xms' in gap]> on Thursday August 18, 2011 @01:21PM (#37131894)

    Helium isn't exactly abundant. Is it wise to vent such huge amounts of it into space just for tourism?

    • Its harmless until Helium begins to cost too much; naturally, we will not regulate it or stop government from handing it over for nothing (because our corporate masters told us that doing anything they do not like is communist and will cost us jobs.) Actually, many in government probably want a shortage to be created so they can invest in it.

      It'll follow the pattern of our other natural resources we so wisely manage...

      • by tmosley (996283)
        Why are you blaming corporations for government's dumb policies? Blame the people doing it!

        If the government doesn't want to be in the helium business, they should have sold all their helium at once to a private company, rather than simply dumping it all on the open market. A private company would preserve what helium they had for a long time.
  • It go's up with expensive irreplaceable helium and comes down by parachute?

    if the balloon part is expendable why not use hydrogen?

    This is just plain stupid!

  • A drop in cabin pressure, please try not to dirty the seats as your lungs exit your body.
  • by tehcyder (746570)
    How did they manage to make something so potentially exciting look so fucking tedious?

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