A Chicken Sandwich Hitches a Balloon Ride to the Stratosphere

The agency in charge of the campaign, Wieden & Kennedy, approached World View to help send the sandwich up.

“As you can imagine, when we first heard about it, we laughed our heads off,” said Jane Poynter, World View’s chief executive. “And when we picked ourselves off the floor, we actually thought it was really, really cool.”

World View was finishing up development of balloons it calls stratollites — a mash-up of stratosphere and satellites — and while a stratollite will not reach the 62-mile-high threshold regarded as the edge of space, it is also much cheaper than a sending a rocket to orbit.

KFC signed up to take part in the demonstration flight, which will test the full complement of technologies, including solar panels to generate power and the navigational technology that will tap into prevailing winds to steer to any part of the world and then hover over a particular spot. “It’s really a shakedown cruise,” Ms. Poynter said.

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The World View stratollite balloon being prepared for launch in February.

Credit
World View

If all goes according to plan, the balloon will stay aloft for at least four days. Earlier stratollite flights, testing various components, were in the air for less than a day.

Ultimately, stratollites could prove a boon to atmospheric and astronomical research, serving as platforms for long-term observations. Downward-looking radar could provide data to generate earlier and more precise storm warnings. Other stratollites could serve as internet relays over remote parts of the world.

Kenneth Howard, a research meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said that although computer models that predict hurricanes and tornadoes have improved, “they’re data-starved.”

Ground-based weather radar is blocked by mountains. The curvature of the Earth limits the…

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