eXtreme Altitude Project


Don Piccard, Executive Officer, XAP

Founder, Chief Pilot, Fellow, ILA - V.P., BBAC - Past President, BCA -  National V.P., NAA

Play "Higher Ground" (Click on "midi")




(Mesosphere vs. Mesasphere:  May we call the "Tabletop" of the Earth's Stratosphere "The Mesasphere"?  If so, it is also the base of the Mesosphere.)


XAP, the eXtreme Altitude Project, will be the first ever expedition to linger in the mesosphere, above the stratosphere, below orbital space. 

Hitherto,  it has been a "No man's land" between air & space.  Now it will become the site for a novel basic research laboratory platform.

Aircraft have not previously been able to carry a man there.  Ballistic vehicles, such as the X Prize ships and orbiting spacecraft cannot remain there: they either go through in seconds on their way to orbit or fall back to earth almost instantly.  Prior to XAP, the state of the art has not permitted a manned vehicle to be stationed above the stratosphere,  This is a true laboratory at the base of space - sitting as it were on our "Mesasphere", the world's tabletop.

The eXtreme Altitude Project is well under way with several major partner/sponsors on board. Critical components to conquer previously insurmountable problems have been invented, developed, and tested.  The combination of these new breakthroughs in  ultra high altitude flight will enable XAP to sojourn in domains where no man has resided before.

XAP combines an ensemble of gigantic gossamer gas balloons with a heavy duty hot air balloon to carry a sea level pressure cabin manned laboratory to a stable float of hours or days at 50 kilometers above sea level and return it, under control, for a safe pilot determined soft landing back on Earth. 

At ceiling, XAP will be at the same ambient atmosphere as the International Space Station within a tolerance of one millibar.

Any traditional stratosphere balloon, after the Auguste Piccard original or the Jean Piccard plastic, must valve gas off to drive the balloon down through the stratosphere against adiabatic superheating and then drop great quantities of ballast in the troposphere to forestall an uncontrolled impact.   In practice, any stratosphere balloon exceeding 100, 000 ft altitude would have to carry an impossible quantity of ballast!  (A case of "Diminishing Returns") Our hot air component assures a controlled safe landing even without any of the gas cells being retained.

During reentry, XAP is expected to be supersonic, but not ionic, therefore telemetering with base will be maintained.  After dynamic deceleration, the  pilot will control the landing with the hot air component.

You are invited to explore this site which will introduce you to our problems and our solutions.  (More links will be populated soon.  We will be pleased to entertain your suggestions for areas of development.)

                    (Click) for: Meet the XAP team.  Your hosts in space.

                    (Click) for: Our Sponsor Partners. You can join them to make it happen.

 DYNEEMA® of DSM has joined the team with the World's Strongest Fiber. 

                    (Click) for: The Unique Tubular Gore Tetroon.  One enabling invention.

                    (Click) for: The Breakthrough Reentry Balloon.  Our new way to get back home safely.

                    (Click) for: The Piccard Dynasty.   400 years of a confusing family tree.                    

                    (Click) for: Balloon Information Resources.  Drafts of six original general balloon articles.

                                         For Mr. Piccard's final article as published in the Encyclopedia Britannica please click on:


                    (Click) for: XAP souvenir covers being carried aboard all flights.

                    (Click) for: XAP Evaluation.

                    (Click) for: External XAP Evaluation by Koh Murai.  We value his opinions. (He has now joined the XAP as of September First 2008.  See XAP Team, above, for his credentials.)

Here are a series of unsolicited external comments on XAP provided as an interesting additional source.  The views expressed are not necessarily those of the XAP organization, sponsors or team members, but they do show the interest that students worldwide are developing in XAP.  These were prepared by Kevin Glinka, now our "Director of Student Activities".




                    (Click) for: Side trip to Mexican Road Racing.  (Balloon piloting is far less demanding than this! )


tude  World Absolute Record for balloons? 

The flight will be sanctioned with the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) and Federation Aeronautic International (FAI) to accent credibility and  for homologation as the World Balloon Absolute Altitude Record. 

We will do this  even though it will be far different from any previous tropospheric or stratospheric ascension and will utilize aerostatic apparatus hardly recognizable as a balloon, apparently not fitting into any of today's officially recognized categories.

While the object and motivation for XAP is not an FAI Record, per se, nor even a Guinness Book World Record, the flight will far surpass any previous efforts.  This flight, into the base realms of "Space", will exit the stratosphere and penetrate well into the mesosphere for the first time by any non-powered craft. That sovereign territory of the limitless space world has previously only had transitory visits , or been passed through, by rocket planes and orbiting spacecraft.  The XAP crew will linger there for the first time.

To characterize this expedition merely as a record attempt would trivialize the real value and intent.


XAP Mission Specialist: Intern as a Scientific Observer. 

For contributing the funding of the nominal cost of one on-board seat you may get the space voyage of a lifetime.  Learn how to operate complex instruments for mesospheric investigation and contribute to basic physics and astronautics research.  Your contribution may be tax deductible. Consult your accountant. 

Our interns are authorized to publish narratives of their unique experiences but not technical reports on the results of their research without their principal investigator’s authorization.  It is expected that the intern will receive credit as co-author of the published reports.


An earlier presentation of the XAP with supplementary Don Piccard web pages is available at www.Piccard.info


                   Contact us at DPiccard("AT")Comcast.Net  or 612 333 6912 and 1445 East River Parkway, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55414-3625.  Thank you, Don Piccard, XO

© 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 Don Piccard, X.O., XAP

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Revised 1/23/2010