World View Enterprises successfully launched one of its stratospheric balloon vehicles carrying a payload for NASA from Spaceport Tucson on Thursday morning.
The company also announced a new investment round of $26.5 million led by a prominent Silicon Valley private-equity investment firm.
Thursday’s high-altitude mission took off from the spaceport, adjacent to World View’s headquarters south of Tucson International Airport, at about 9:39 a.m., the company said in a news release.
The flight was commissioned by the NASA Flight Opportunities program office for two principal customers, the NASA Ames Research Center and Space Environment Technologies, both of which are studying radiation detection and its energy levels at different altitudes.
The balloon vehicle is expected to gather data and stay aloft for less than 24 hours, depending on winds and landing conditions, a World View spokesman said.
“These types of missions provide World View the opportunity to use our flight platform to support important scientific research that will benefit humanity back here on Earth,” said Jane Poynter, World View founder and CEO.
World View’s high-altitude balloon vehicle, called the Stratollite, can take small payloads into the stratosphere for commercial and research applications at a fraction of the cost of space launches, and plans to someday take tourists into near-space in special capsules.
The Stratollites are controlled in flight with a proprietary ballasting system and landed under control of a steerable parafoil, typically in remote areas.
Thursday’s launch was the fourth from Spaceport Tucson since an inaugural mission in October and the first since a grounded hydrogen-filled balloon exploded Dec. 19 in an incident that damaged World View’s county-leased building.
Meanwhile, World View announced that it has closed a $26.5 million, Series C round of financing led by Accel, a prominent Silicon Valley investment firm.
The funding round, which included major investments by prior investors Canaan Partners and Norwest Venture Partners, follows earlier private-equity financing rounds totaling $22 million.
The World View investment is the first in the space sector for Accel, which was an early stage investor in companies including Facebook, Dropbox and Spotify.
Accel’s Sameer Ghandi will join World View’s board of directors, the company said.