Ceiling for First Trip: 113,000 Feet
Providing that all the test flights work out safely,
the first commercial trip would have the craft towed by balloons tethered to
safety parachutes to 113,000 feet-about 21
miles high. During an undoubtedly scary free-fall back to the ground, passengers
would experience about 5 minutes of weightlessness.
The entire flight would last 6 or 7 hours, with most of that time spent going slowly up. (I believe I'll pass, thanks.)
In his second round of flights, Jarvis claims, passengers would experience 10 minutes of zero gravity and fly to a suborbital altitude of 330,000 feet, or about 62 miles. The round-trip flight would take about 45 minutes.
A few months after as many tethered flights as are needed, Hermes will be equipped with an engine so it can be flown like a high-speed aircraft. These flights will be manned by experienced pilots, Morris said.
Thank God for that.
Morris and his colleagues will use data collected from the various test flights by the Tolapai controller and the Dot Hill arrays to build the production version of Hermes, which will then feature a special heat shield necessary for re-entry into the earth's atmosphere.