A different approach to space tourism just got a Silicon Valley boost. CNBC has learned that World View Enterprises, which sends equipment to the edge of space using high-altitude balloons, closed its latest round of venture capital funding with $26.5 million at a valuation of at least $84 million -- more than double its last valuation. The funding, led by prominent tech investor Accel, will bring it closer to its long term goal: using balloons to get people close to space. "This is a really key milestone for us, as our focus on the moment is on the Stratollite," World View co-founder and CEO Jane Poynter told CNBC, referring to the high-altitude balloon it uses to make long flights above specific spots on the Earth. "It's a brand new vehicle that we're bringing to market that no one else has." World View intends to use what it learns from Stratollite to launch people in another balloon-lifted craft called Voyager. "We will be flying people in the future but I'd like us to have 100 or more Stratollite flights under our belt first," Poynter said. Stratollite can fly commercial payloads the size of a small bus to 150,000 feet of altitude, making it possible to quickly and steadily provide services such as weather forecasting, military surveillance or disaster recovery. World View believes its technology stands apart from "cubesats," the tiny satellites that are thefastest-growing part of the $250 billion satellite industry, because Stratollite can stay in one place for a long time -- making it capable of "persistence monitoring."
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