Upper atmosphere

Near space is the region of Earth's atmosphere that lies between 65,000 and 325,000–350,000 feet (20 to 100 km) above sea level, encompassing the stratosphere, mesosphere, and the lower thermosphere. This is above where airliners fly but below orbiting satellites. The area is of interest for military surveillance purposes, as well as to commercial interests for communications. Craft that fly in near space include high altitude balloons, non-rigid airships and sounding rockets.

The terms "near space" and "upper atmosphere" are generally considered synonymous. However, some sources distinguish between the two. Where such a distinction is made, only the layers closest to the Karman line are called near space, while only the remaining layers between the lower atmosphere and near space are called the upper atmosphere.


Near space was first explored in the 1930s. The early flights flew to the edge of space without computers, spacesuits, and with only crude life support systems. Notable people who flew in near space were Jean Piccard and his wife Jeannette, on the nearcraft The Century of Progress. Later exploration was mainly carried out by unmanned nearcraft, although there have been skydiving attempts made from high altitude balloons.

Use in space travel

The region has been of interest to space travel. Early attempts used a craft known as a rockoon to reach extreme altitudes and orbit. These are still used today for sounding rockets.

There has been a resurgence of interest in near space to launch manned spacecraft by man. Groups like ARCASPACE, as well as the da Vinci Project are planning on launching manned suborbital space vehicles from high altitude balloons.

JP Aerospace has a proposal for a spaceport in near space, as part of their Airship to Orbit program.

Atmospheric phenomena in near space

Atmospheric phenomena in near space include the polar aurora.

See also

External links

  • Near Space as a Combat Effects Enabler
  • United States Air Force
  • Lack of Persistent Platforms Hurts US Military
  • Defensetech.org
  • Near Space Systems
  • American Digital Networks
  • Parallax.com
  • Space Data Corporation
  • The B.H.A.L.D.I. Project
  • Bloon Near-space flight
  • www.justinhamel.com


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