I’m torn. On the one hand, I want to talk about an exciting stratospheric flight that will take place next week. On the other, it means I have to provide free advertisement to a fast food chain.
So, let’s start with the science. On June 21, a company called World View Enterprises is planning to send its revolutionary Stratollite vehicle up to an altitude of 46 kilometers (30 miles) using a helium-filled balloon on a multi-day mission.
The vehicle is designed to be maneuverable in the stratosphere. Making use of stratospheric winds, the Stratollite will be able to steer over particular locations and stay there for weeks or months at a time on later missions.
World View’s ultimate goal is to launch a capsule called Voyager into the stratosphere. This will take paying customers up to an altitude of 30 kilometers (19 miles), where they will be able to see the curvature of Earth, before returning to Earth. It’ll even have Wi-Fi, a lavatory, and a bar.
Stratollite, then, is sort of a proof of concept. But it has scientific value too, being able to carry payloads of up to 4,500 kilograms (9,920 pounds) to high altitude for months at a time. For many scientists, that is invaluable research time in the stratosphere.
But… sigh. On this upcoming test flight, the payload will not be an interesting experiment or research project. It will instead be… a… oh god I’ve got to write it. A KFC spicy Zinger chicken sandwich. Please forgive me.
"We’re excited to be the ones pushing spicy, crispy chicken sandwich space travel forward,” KFC’s US president, Kevin Hochman, said in a statement that makes me want to gouge my eyes out.
In World View’s defense, they say that having KFC as a partner shows the commerciability of near-space travel. Sponsorship deals are few and far between in spaceflight, perhaps with good reason. But, I guess, they can at least provide funding to fledgling companies like this.
“Sure, this whole chicken sandwich payload is a bit funny,” Taber MacCallum, World View co-founder and chief technology officer, said in the statement. “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.”
Still, though. Did they have to go down this route? I know it’s somewhat tongue-in-cheek and all but come on. There are other ways to get funding.
There will be a live stream for the event at www.KFCin.space on the day and yes I did just have to type that. If you want more information you can go to yesweareactuallysendingachickensandwichto.space.
I better get at least a year’s supply of food for this, KFC.