To hear the folks at World View tell it, the first extended-duration flight of its high-altitude Stratollite vehicle is far more than a promotional message for a chicken sandwich. It’s a pivotal milestone with implications for providing better telecommunications, climate modeling and disaster response, to name a few.
KFC enlisted World View as part of its marketing campaign that will see its new (to the U.S.) flagship spicy Zinger chicken sandwich launch 19 miles into the air on a high-altitude balloon called a Stratollite. The idea of launching a chicken sandwich into space was hatched by KFC and creative agency Wieden+Kennedy. They even enlisted actor Rob Lowe, complete with astronaut uniform and a Colonel Sanders-type hair and beard, to play up the space angle in an ad.
Tucson, Arizona-based World View explained last week that it sees the occasion as a great opportunity to publicly demonstrate the Stratollite’s capabilities. The event will be livestreamed via KFC social channels and www.KFCin.space starting at 7 a.m. Eastern time Thursday, June 22.
Update: Officials at World View announced the launch has been delayed due to increased ground wind conditions. The company plans to share an update once it has confirmed the date and time for the next launch attempt.
The FCC granted World View a special temporary authorization earlier this month to conduct the mission in a time frame between June 18 and July 17.
The World View team, according to the company’s website, includes retired NASA astronauts, including Capt. Mark Kelly, along with a former NASA associate administrator for science, Biosphere 2 designers and crew members, International Space Station scientists and world experts in high-altitude ballooning and human spaceflight.
Taber MacCallum, World View co-founder and chief technology officer, said in a promotional video that it’s kind of funny they’re getting all this attention for flying a chicken sandwich into space, but on the other hand, it’s one of the world’s largest companies trusting the launch of a new product to World View’s first flight. “That’s a big deal,” he said.
The remotely controlled, uncrewed Stratollite vehicle features a Stratocraft payload module carried by a system of high-altitude balloons that ascends to and operates along the edge of space. World View says its proprietary altitude-control technology allows it to harness stratospheric winds to steer the Stratollite to and from desired locations and loiter above them for weeks and months at a time. Thus, it’s easy to see the implications they can have in responding to disasters.
Until now, World View’s previous test flights for Stratollite have spanned between six and 12 hours in length. The partnership with KFC expands the flight profile to four days, allowing World View to better define the flight envelope and demonstrate the vehicle’s long-duration capability.
"We’re excited to be the ones pushing spicy, crispy chicken sandwich space travel forward,” said Kevin Hochman, KFC U.S. president, in a press release (PDF). “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.”
And just to be clear, the potato wedges, cookie and drink that usually accompany the Zinger in a $5 package are not going along for the ride.
Editor's note: Story updated June 22 with delayed launch information.