Chicken Flies, Comes Back Down

The world witnessed a chicken reach unprecedented heights, only to return to Earth early due to a technical malfunction.

World View Enterprises launched a Kentucky Fried Chicken Zinger sandwich in near-space on June 29 near Page, Arizona. The launch was delayed a week due to weather concerns and carried out in Page instead of the new World View HQ in Pima County.

Ostensibly scheduled to promote the nationwide roll out of the sandwich, the launch was also supposed to test key systems on World Views proprietary Stratolite technology. The mission was to last four days. However, that didn't happen, and the craft returned to Earth within 24 hours.

Jane Poynter, Chief Executive Officer of World View, said in a press release that she was pleased with the overall mission result. "Within an hour, all system test objectives were met," she said. That success included, "altitude control capability, solar power generation and successful distribution, high-definition video downlink, and effective steering of the vehicle."

The special payload also operated to specs. The Zinger performed "flawlessly and experienced incredible views from the edge of space," Poynter said.

Still, problems emerged. After nearly 17 hours in flight, a small tear in one of the Stratolite's balloons grounded the craft.  World View has based its business on developing guided high-altitude balloons (unlike standard weather-balloons, which lack guidance systems) that can do the job of satellites at a lower cost. The Zinger mission was to be the first multi-day test of that system.

Even though the Stratolite made an early return, Poynter said she and the World View team "are extremely pleased with the results of the mission. Many of these systems were flown for the first time and tested together simultaneously."

Far from acknowledging any problems with the mission, KFC reveled in getting the sandwich airborne. On the company's official Facebook page, a short video of the sandwich in its custom made "space-pod" is shown. Above the video is the caption: "The Chicken has landed, welcome home brave space sandwich."