Pigs still can’t fly, but a chicken sandwich is set to reach the edge of space.
If all goes according to plan, the KFC Zinger sandwich will take off from an undisclosed location near Tucson in the next week or so and reach the stratosphere in a World View-manufactured Stratollite balloon.
While KFC’s interest is to promote a sandwich, World View says the deal will help finance development of the unmanned balloon, which can be steered and made to hover over a particular spot on Earth for extended periods of time at a much lower cost than other technologies, according to a company spokesman.
Among the many non-fast-food applications for the technology are remote sensing, facilitating communications, studying weather and detecting wildfires, according to spokesman Andrew Antonio.
The trip, which is planned to last up to four days and be broadcast live, will also represent the longest mission for a Stratollite balloon to date. Other recent trips have lasted 12 hours or less.
At the end, the sandwich will descend back to Earth, along with telemetry data. Trips with more scientific payloads are planned before the end of the year.
“Sure, this whole chicken sandwich payload is a bit funny,” said World View co-founder Taber MacCallum in a press release. “But, KFC gets to embark upon a one-of-a-kind marketing experiment, while we get to pursue our first multi-day shakedown cruise in the stratosphere. It’s a win for all.”
Chuck Huckelberry, administrator of Pima County, which financed and built the company’s headquarters south of the Tucson airport, said that even though the soon-to-launch payload is less than serious, the partnership was “smart business” on the part of World View because it raises the profile of the company and highlights its capabilities.
“I don’t care who pays them,” he added. “KFC, McDonald’s or anybody else. Or the federal government for defense contracts or scientific research coming from universities.”
World View’s Tucson headquarters and launch pad were built last year with $15 million in county-issued debt, a deal that is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit.
The company will pay that amount and then some over the course of a 20-year lease agreement with the county, the terms of which set rental rates in early years below market rates before rising incrementally above market rates, according to county documents.