A solar powered hot air balloon with a maneuvering system is disclosed. The balloon is formed of an envelope with an opaque portion and a transparent portion arranged so as to utilize solar heating to heat air within the envelope. The opaque portion of the envelope has a substantially black inner surface and a light reflecting outer surface with the black inner surface being positioned so as to receive a maximum amount of sunlight through the transparent portion for a given location of the sun. Ascent and descent maneuvering is accomplished by changing the rotational position of the balloon relative to the position of the sun so that more or less portions of the black inner surface receive sunlight to thus generate heating within the envelope. The maneuvering system includes a pair of propulsion units positioned on opposite sides of the balloon. In one embodiment, two light sensors may be provided which are connected to a control unit. The control unit either manually or automatically selectively activates the propulsion units depending upon the amount of light received by the respective sensor units. In another embodiment, a plurality of light sensors are spaced around the balloon at angular increments. Respective pairs of sensor elements are activated corresponding to desired angles of rotational position for the balloon so that the amount of sunlight received by the inner block surface can be varied so as to control ascent and descent.