Space Unbound, a brand new, start-up ballooning company is planning to do the unthinkable on August 21, 2017. They are going to attempt to break the record for the highest altitude jump ever successfully completed by skydiving from a near-space balloon during the solar eclipse. The current records are most recently held by Felix Baumgartner at 128,100 feet (2012) and Alan Eustace 135,890 feet (2014).
Space Unbound launched a Kickstarter campaign on February 8 in order to raise $100,000 for their new mission, properly named Helios. This will be a solar eclipse mission and skydive from a balloon aircraft. The plan is to send three highly skilled pilots up into the atmosphere, almost into space. On board will be: Per Wimmer, an entrepreneur and investment banker who set a world record for tandem skydiving off of Mount Everest back in 2008; David Jankowski, CEO of the Students and Teachers In Near Space program (SATINS); and Joseph Lazukin, another entrepreneur with multiple marketing and tech companies in his portfolio. The goal of the Kickstarter campaign is to raise enough money to cover any relocation costs if the team needs to move to a new launch site due to weather conditions. They are currently set o launch from the company’s location in Nashville, Tennessee.
“Our goal is to safely send three pilot into near space to capture the 2017 total solar eclipse in 3660 HD VR aboard the first commercial near-space vehicle,” Space Unbound representatives said in their campaign description.
In addition to this near-space skydive, they are also joining forces with HeroX to get people to send shoebox-size scientific payloads or projects not he near-space balloon to collect more data. Submit a project to HeroX’s Civilian Space Challenge by clicking here. This is the best way to become part of the Helios adventure! (HeroX was founded by Peter Diamandis, who also founded X Prize.) Projects sent in will be mounted to a platform extending 2.5 feet from the balloon while the pilots record 360º views during the solar eclipse of the United States.
The goal of Space Unbound is to offer customers an experience of a lifetime. They want to be able to take tourists up in a high-altitude balloon for a near-space tour! It will be be approximately the same cost as the average international flight.
Jumping during the Solar Eclipse
Lazukin currently has no experience with skydiving or high-altitude ballooning. He is set to train vigorously with highly experienced skydiving, simulating the experience of high-altitude jumping. His rigorous training will include what to do in emergency situations and how to recover. Baumgartner has great experience with this because he managed to recover from d dangerous spin during his record-breaking jump back in 2012. Lazukin does not seem to be worried. He is also heavily relying on the help of space engineers who became involve in the Helios mission due to connections with Wimmer and Jankowski. The company is currently in the process of negotiating the cost of pressurize jumpsuits. They are also addressing the issue of making sure the near-space balloons can safely fly multiple flights, while also reducing the long-term costs of operation.
The near-space balloon will be fitted with several 360º cameras which will record the adventure in HD. A ground crew will be monitoring the weather and condition of the balloon from below. They will be the ones to determine whether or not conditions are safe enough to make the jump.
Jankowski and Wimmer have known each other for a while now. They have worked together on other near-space and outer space projects before Helios. SATINS, Jankowski’s organization, helped to launch the first successful playing of a vinyl record into near space back in 2016. This was called Third Man Records. According to his website, Wimmer has booked space tourism flights with Virgin Galactic, XCOR, and Space Adventures. These men love to play!
In all seriousness, Lazukin has reiterated that this is not merely a stunt. The Helios mission is meant bring attention to the near-space company’s potential at tourist flights. Space Unbound is planning to use their funds to get launch licenses in multiple locations. If their Kickstarter campaigner is unsuccessful, they will turn to sponsorship and individual companies in order to raise the money they need to make the Helios mission a success.
For more information about the Helios mission and Space Unbound, check out their Kickerstarter campaign here.