Chinese New Space company Kuang-Chi Science Ltd. and U.S. New Space pioneer Nanoracks have announced their partnership in developing new business outside of China for Kuang-Chi’s Traveler near-space helium balloon platform for space tourism, Earth observation, small satellite launch, and scientific research.
The Traveler is capable of operations at 25 kilometers altitude above the Earth’s surface, an altitude regarded by some as ‘near-space’, and has completed test flights in China and New Zealand, the most recent one reaching an altitude of 21 kilometers carrying a live turtle in a pressurized cabin. Kuang-Chi hope to conduct a test flight with humans on board as early as 2019.
The Kuang-Chi and Nanoracks partnership aims to develop new business and markets for the Traveler programme. Kuang-Chi will manufacture the Traveler technology and platform while Nanoracks is to provide their expertise in marketing and the New Space business sector.
“We are nearing our goal of creating a space vehicle that can be used both for scientific research and provide commercial travel to Near Space,” said Dr. Liu Ruopeng, the President and co-founder of Kuang-Chi.
“Enabling Near Space travel to the general public is one of the dreams the founders of Kuang-Chi have had for many years. We welcome working with new partners to bring this dream to the market,” Dr. Liu added.
The Traveler platform should take about an hour and a half to reach its maximum altitude, and should provide passengers with approximately two hours of near-space experience, to include occasional experiences of weightlessness in zero-gravity conditions.
The Traveler consists of a cabin that is 2.5 meters in diameter and a helium balloon that is 40 meters in diameter, and will be able to carry up to six passengers, or equipment such as sensors and scientific instruments.
“We are very excited to be working with Kuang-Chi on its Near Space Platform,” said NanoRacks CEO Jeffrey Manber.
“This commercial partnership will allow NanoRacks to now offer even more in-space opportunities for our growing customer base. And we look forward to establishing a world-class facility for the Traveler research program in an international location to be announced in the near future,” said Manber.