A Florida company is planning to fly passengers to the edge of space in a high-tech version of a hot air balloon, with a pilot and up to eight travellers riding in a pressurized capsule suspended from an enormous blimp.
Human space flight company Space Perspective is now taking reservations on its Spaceship Neptune for flights in early 2024, with tickets priced firmly in the once-in-a-lifetime bracket at $125,000 per person.
The refundable reservation deposits are tiered, with higher down payments needed for Year One flights and decreasing for later bookings.
The inaugural test flight took off on June 18 from the Space Coast Spaceport in Titusville, Florida. The six hour and 39-minute flight was uncrewed, but cameras on board captured a stunning image of the Earth at sunrise.
Space Perspective says the test flight is a crucial milestone on its way to taking space tourists on leisurely sightseeing jaunts, with a refreshment bar and social media capabilities to hand.
While Space Perspective’s first flights will take off from Florida, the company is planning additional launch sites around the world.
The six-hour trips will involve a two-hour gentle ascent above 99% of the Earth’s atmosphere to 100,000 feet. There’ll then be another leisurely two hours for passengers to enjoy the 360-degree views from the cabin before the spaceship makes its two-hour descent to the ocean, where it will splash down safely. Voyage to shore will be completed by ship.
The capsule is five meters in diameter, while the polyethylene balloon above has a 100-meter diameter when fully inflated, about the length of a football field The spaceship was designed in collaboration with UK design studio PriestmanGoode.
As helium is in limited supply and needed for critical medical applications, Spaceship Neptune uses hydrogen.
Space Perspective claims that the process will be simple as boarding an airplane and that the pressurized capsule offers what it describes as a “shirt-sleeves environment”.
The lavatory, it claims, is “the loo with the best view in the known universe,” and is located in the center of the capsule in the splashdown cone.