A radical new way of lofting satellites into orbit passed a key test earlier this month. Zero 2 Infinity, a Spanish company that develops stratospheric balloons to access near space, sent one of them soaring high above the planet and then successfully fired a rocket that is designed to launch satellites into space.
Stunning footage sent back from the balloon shows the rocket, called Bloostar, zooming away against a stunning backdrop of Earth below. Bloostar's test took place at a height of about 15 miles (25 kilometers) - more than twice the height of commercial airplane flights.
The company says that Bloostar is the first small satellite launcher to employ a stratospheric balloon as its first stage. Preliminary results from the test flight confirm that the rocket can ignite and fly in a stable trajectory, and that it would be able to deploy parachutes and be recovered from the sea. The team also validated the telemetry systems in space conditions and monitored the launch sequence.