World View Enterprises completed the first launch of one of its stratospheric balloons Sunday morning from the Spaceport Tucson site south of the airport.
The successful test flight from the launchpad adjacent to the company’s balloon-making operation and headquarters marks the start of operations from the spaceport, said Jane Poynter, World View founder and CEO .
“This milestone launch signals the operational opening of the global hub for commerce and science in the stratosphere,” Poynter said Sunday in a news release.
“Spaceport Tucson, the first-ever, purpose-built stratospheric launch facility in the world, is now open for business.”
The Federal Aviation Administration recently awarded a certificate of authorization to World View to launch Stratollite missions from Spaceport Tucson.
The spaceport features a circular pad 700 feet in diameter — about the area of six football fields.
World View is developing its steerable Stratollite balloon vehicles to offer missions to the Earth’s stratosphere for commercial payloads and, eventually, individual travelers.
Prior test missions have been launched from rural areas, including the launch of a chicken sandwich from a site near Page in June in an advertising campaign for Kentucky Fried Chicken.
The pad and a manufacturing facility were built near Tucson International Airport by Pima County at a cost of roughly $15 million. The company is expected to pay more than that amount back over the 20-year lease.
“I can’t wait to see what the future holds for World View and our Spaceport,” county Supervisor Sharon Bronson said Sunday in a news release.
As a part of the deal, World View will pay below-market rent for the first years of the lease, though the rent rises incrementally over the 20-year term to well-above market rates, according to the county. That feature, among others, is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit that pits the county against the Goldwater Institute, which alleges the deal violates state law and county ordinances.