Chicken-kind may take a giant leap next week.
World View Enterprises' Stratollite balloon system is scheduled to carry a KFC Zinger chicken sandwich to the stratosphere on June 21, representatives of both companies announced today (June 13). [Update 6/28: The launch is now scheduled for Thursday, June 29, with the launch window opening at 8 a.m. EDT.]
The flight will mark the first multiday mission for Stratollite, and the longest-ever controlled stratospheric balloon voyage with a commercial payload, KFC representatives said.
"This mission offers edge-of-space access to KFC, allowing them to embark upon a one-of-a-kind marketing experiment, while we get to pursue our maiden multiday Stratollite shakedown cruise and open unprecedented access to the stratosphere," World View co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Taber MacCallum said in a statement. "It's a double win."
World View's uncrewed Stratollites — a portmanteau of "stratosphere" and "satellite" — have already flown multiple high-altitude missions carrying commercial payloads. The solar-powered balloons can fly up to 28.5 miles (46 kilometers) above the Earth and stay aloft for weeks or even months, company representatives have said.
Stratollites can travel long distances or hover over the same spot on Earth for long stretches. The balloons could help provide Wi-Fi service to remote areas, monitor natural disasters and perform a number of other services, World View representatives said.
The Arizona-based company is also developing a crewed system called Voyager, which will take passengers on 5- to 6-hour flights that reach a maximum altitude of about 20 miles (32 km).
Tickets for this experience — which will offer a view of Earth's curvature against the blackness of space — are currently selling for $75,000. World View has stated a desire to start crewed Voyager flights in 2017, but no maiden-flight date has been announced.
The launch window for the KFC-Stratollite flight opens on June 21. You'll be able to watch the flight live when the time comes, at http://www.kfcin.space/.
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Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.