World View, KFC to send sandwich to the edge of space

By Patrick C. Miller | June 21, 2017

Start with a group of entrepreneurs and ex-NASA employees, add a high-altitude balloon controlled with unmanned aircraft system (UAS) technology, blend in a major fast-food company and what do you get?

It’s the recipe for a unique opportunity to test an innovative technology on the edge of space and to market a new chicken sandwich. Beginning this week, World View Enterprises Inc. of Tucson, Arizona, and KFC Corp. of Louisville, Kentucky, will embark on an effort to launch World View’s balloon-borne Stratollite system while carrying KFC’s Zinger sandwich into the stratosphere.

“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 multi-day Stratollite shakedown cruise and open unprecedented access to the stratosphere,” said Taber MacCallum, World View co-founder and chief technology officer. “It’s a double win.”

Using the winds aloft for propulsion, World View is combining the old technology of ballooning with new command-and-control technology used for UAS. It’s a serious mission, but that doesn’t mean the two companies can’t have some fun promoting the idea of a chicken sandwich going to space.

"We’re excited to be the ones pushing spicy, crispy chicken sandwich space travel forward,” said Kevin Hochman, KFC president. “But in all seriousness, we’re proud to support World View’s commitment to advancing space research and trust them to take our world-famous Zinger sandwich to space.”

The launch window for the mission opens Thursday, June 22, with the video feed—which can be viewed live on Facebook—starting between 3:45 and 4:54 a.m. Pacific Time. It will be World View’s first-ever live broadcast launch and the most important to date for the Stratollite vehicle. The milestone signals the market readiness of the first-ever, long-duration, navigable stratospheric payload vehicle, which World View said opens an entirely new economy and application for markets in the stratosphere.

The company envisions Stratollites being used as stationary Wi-Fi hubs over remote or undeveloped areas that normally lack internet access. In addition, Stratollites could be used for research, surveying, weather forecasting, monitoring trouble spots, helping coordinate disaster preparedness and response, and providing communications for first responders during disasters.

“The Stratollite is spearheading a new market for data collection of our planet, the environment and human activity from a perch at the very edge of space,” said Jane Poynter, World View founder and CEO. “This next mission will be our first attempt to really push the envelope with a flight-designed to test, for the very first time, all the integrated critical systems needed to bring this Stratollite online for commercial markets.”

World View has two additional flights planned for this summer, with several others booked with science and research customer payloads planned before the end of the year.