World View balloon explodes, shakes parts of Tucson

Published: Dec. 19, 2017 at 6:39 PM MST|Updated: Dec. 20, 2017 at 2:33 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A World View high-altitude balloon exploded Tuesday, shaking several neighborhoods near the Tucson International Airport

The aerospace and space tourism company confirmed the incident and said two of their employees reported ringing in their ears after the accident.

World View also said damage was reported by residents and businesses in the area.

"We will be proactively coordinating with the parties affected," World View said in a news release. "We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this incident may have caused our local neighbors. We are working to fully understand the cause of the incident to ensure that it cannot and will not happen again."

Several Tucson News Now viewers reported hearing a loud boom, seeing white smoke and feeling the ground shake around 12:45 p.m.

World View is a aerospace and space tourism company located on Aerospace Parkway near the Tucson International Airport.

The company has said it wants to hire 500 people for high-paying jobs over the next few years.

One part of World View's business includes offering commercial customers the ability to do research flights for a fraction of the current cost.

Company officials said it has contracts with NASA and Northrop Grumman, and has already carried payloads for both.

The other part is space tourism and World View officials have said they hoped to take people into near space by 2017.

The cost of a five-hour trip will be $75,000 and the company said it already has a list of people and families who have paid a deposit for the trip.

Up to six people will be able to take the trip inside a large capsule tethered to a large balloon.

The capsule has a 360-degree view, which will allow patrons to view the curvature of the earth, something that up to now, has been generally seen only by astronauts.

In March 2016, the Pima County Board of Supervisors approved a bond sale for a $15 million loan to the company.

World View agreed to lease the facility from the county for 20 years at a cost of $24 million. If the company fulfills the terms of the contract, Pima County taxpayers will earn $9 million profit.

According to the agreement, the total cost of the facility is estimated to be $15 million for the manufacturing and administrative building and $500,000 for the space port.

The board's action was later challenged in court.

Earlier this month, Pima County received positive news in its ongoing lawsuit with the Goldwater Institute.

An Arizona Appeals Court, Division 2, released a draft decision which said Pima County was legally correct when it did not "employ the competitive bidding process" when it reached the World View deal.

In October 2017, the company launched its first high-altitude balloon from Spaceport Tucson.

Just two weeks later, Tucson News Now received several calls, emails and messages about a strange object in the sky.

Turned out, it was a World View balloon.

The company said they launched their Stratollite spacecraft five days before and it had traveled from northwest of Tucson to near the Grand Canyon, a distance of 260 miles.

On Dec. 18, the company released images from its high-altitude Stratollite vehicle.

According to a news release from World View, "the images were captured from altitudes ranging between 65,000 and 75,000 feet with an off-the-shelf imaging sensor and show sub-meter resolution capability from the Stratollite."

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