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Company test space balloon

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POSTED June 24, 2014 7:13 p.m.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — An Arizona company says it has successfully completed the first small-scale test flight of a high-altitude balloon and capsule being developed to let tourists float 20 miles above the earth.

World View Enterprises of Tucson said Tuesday that it launched the flight last week from Roswell, New Mexico.

CEO Jane Poynter said the system broke the world record for highest parafoil flight, lifting a payload to 120,000 feet.

“It went really, really, really well,” Poynter said. “Actually, the guys hit the ball out of the park. We’re thrilled.”

The system uses a balloon similar to that used in 2012 to lift Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner 128,000 feet to make a world-record breaking 24-mile sky dive. That flight also launched from the Roswell airport.

Poynter said that last week’s flight was the first testing all the components together. It used a balloon about third the size of that planned for passenger flight to lift a payload of about one-tenth of what will be used to carry passengers.

The company is still planning to begin its $75,000 per-person flights in 2016, she said. The balloons will lift a capsule carrying six passengers and two crew members 20 miles up, where they will float under a parafoil for about two hours before floating back down to earth. The capsule will be big enough for the passengers to walk around. The selling point is the view of the Earth and seeing its curve, the company says.  Other space-tourism ventures under development will rocket passengers the full 62 miles into space but on much shorter flights.

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