Caixa Capital Risc, the venture capital subsidiary of la Caixa, Spain’s 3rd largest financial institution, has invested in Zero 2 Infinity SL of Barcelona (Spain). Additionally, several Spanish private investors have joined this Series A round. Founded in 2009, Zero 2 Infinity SL is committed to increasing the access to Near Space (above airspace and below satellites) for both science and leisure. Ultramagic SA of Igualada (Spain), the world second largest manufacturer of crewed balloons, became a strategic investor in 2010 and remains in this capacity.
Bloon is Zero 2 Infinity’s first project, a lighter-than-air vehicle conceived from day 1 to provide an environmentally friendly solution for Near Space flight, a journey beyond the blue skies into the blackness of Space. The firm has successfully tested several scaled prototypes to altitudes up to 33 km. Bloon is scheduled to start carrying paying customers and scientific payloads to an altitude of 36 km (about twice the altitude of the Concorde and 3 times the altitude of a conventional airliner) in the 2013-2015 range. Commenting on the operation and what it means for the company, founder and CEO Jose Mariano Lopez-Urdiales said: “Seeing the edge of Space from electronic eyes on prototypes is exciting, but now it’s the time for real human eyes, pilot eyes.” A first test flight of minibloon, a scaled down version of Bloon, is expected for 2012.