Despite some setbacks, stratospheric balloon startup World View Enterprises says it had a successful 2018 and is looking to pick up the pace of launches this year.

In an annual report to Pima County, landlord of the company’s headquarters at Spaceport Tucson, World View said it conducted nine successful flights last year, including five from the Spaceport Tucson site south of Tucson International Airport.

The successful flights followed the explosion of a hydrogen-filled balloon during ground testing at Spaceport Tucson in December 2017, which resulted in nearly a half-million dollars in damage to the company’s headquarters building.

So far in 2019, the company has had three launches, all for paying customers including parachute system maker Airborne Systems and Draper, a non-profit research lab, World View spokesman Andrew Antonio said.

One of this year’s flights was the company’s longest to date, topping its record of positively controlling one of its Stratollite balloon vehicles for 72 continuous hours.

Looking ahead, the company said it plans to continue to advance its proprietary balloon-control technology, extend its flight duration and “productize” its Stratollites.

Some highlights of the 2018 annual report:

  • The company conducted nine high-altitude balloon missions, including one in-house research flight and seven for paying customers including NASA, the Defense Department and a confidential commercial customer. The Stratollites logged more than 122 total flight hours, including a mission that successfully broke the world record for the heaviest payload ever carried by a high-altitude balloon.
  • World View closed a Series C financing round of $26.5 million, led by Accel Partners (backers of ventures including Facebook, Dropbox and Spotify).
  • The company’s revenue backlog, which it holds confidential, grew significantly in 2018, “proving significant demand for the Stratollite.”
  • World View said it had 89 employees, including 80 in Pima County, who made an annual average salary of $83,333 and contributed $7.4 million in economic impact, while other company spending contributed more than $3 million.

World View, which laid off 10 workers in February in a workforce realignment, now has 92 full-time employees and five temporary contract employees, Antonio said.

Under World View’s $15 million lease deal with Pima County in 2016, the company is required to employ an average of at least 100 workers over the first five years of the contract, at a minimum annual salary of $50,000, stepping up to 400 workers by around 2032.

RAYTHEON DIRECTED-ENERGY TESTING

Tucson-based Raytheon Missile Systems said Tuesday its advanced high-power microwave and mobile high-energy laser systems engaged and defeated multiple aerial drone targets during a recent U.S. Air Force demonstration at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

Mounted on a Polaris MRZR all-terrain vehicle, the high-energy laser system is paired with Raytheon’s Multi-spectral Targeting System to detect, identify, track and zap drones.

Raytheon’s high-power microwave system uses microwave energy to disrupt drone guidance systems, focusing its beam to target and instantly defeat drone swarms.

Raytheon said its directed energy systems were the only ones that participated in the Air Force demonstration, which expanded on previous tests including an Army exercise held in 2017.

Separately this week, Raytheon Missile Systems was awarded two big contracts for air-combat missiles and precision-guided artillery shells.

The Navy awarded Raytheon a three-year, $419 million contract to supply an unspecified number of its Sidewinder AIM-9X Block II air-to-air missiles, plus test and training missiles and other equipment, for the U.S. Navy and Air Force and 24 allied governments including Israel, Japan, Poland, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey.

Also this week, the Army awarded Raytheon a five-year, $200 million contract for procurement of Excalibur Ib satellite-guided shells.

DETECTING PANCREATIC CANCER

Microvascular Therapeutics, a Tucson-based company co-founded by University of Arizona radiology professor Dr. Evan Unger, has licensed two patent applications from Stanford University to develop a new test for pancreatic cancer.

The company will marry an antibody for pancreatic cancer developed at Stanford with a new ultrasound imaging contrast agent, MVT-100, which is currently in clinical testing and is being supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, to develop a molecular biomarker to diagnose early-stage pancreatic cancer.

Unger has launched several startups, including NuvOx Pharma, based on his foundational technology for therapy using patented gas “microbubbles,” originally developed as an ultrasound contrast agent.

Unger’s son, Dr. Wyatt Unger, leads Microvascular Therapeutics as chief medical officer, while his father is managing director.

Contact senior reporter David Wichner at dwichner@tucson.com or 573-4181. On Twitter: @dwichner. On Facebook: Facebook.com/DailyStarBiz.

Reporter

David joined the Star in 1997, after working as a consumer and business reporter in Phoenix for more than a decade. A graduate of Ohio University, he has covered most business beats focusing on technology, defense and utilities. He has won several awards.