A space tourism firm revealed new exterior design for its luxury space balloon
- Space tourism firm Space Perspective wants to take you to the edge of space with its new Spaceship Neptune design.
- The space balloon will carry passengers aboard a pressurized cabin to altitudes nearly 20 miles above Earth.
- Space Perspective will charge $125,000 per ticket to go to space.
Space Perspective is one of a handful of firms that aims to cut the costs of space tourism by cutting rocket fuel out of the equation.
The space tourism company just unveiled the final design of its Spaceship Neptune, the pressurized capsule that will take passengers to the very edge of space — though they won't technically actually reach space.
Meet Spaceship Neptune
Spaceship Neptune will reach an altitude of 20 miles (30 kilometers) above Earth's surface. That's roughly three times lower than the Kármán Line, which many recognize as the boundary to space – and others even dispute that figure.
That's not to say it won't likely be a fascinating experience. Spaceship Neptune's design allows for panoramic 360-degree views, and the curvature of Earth and the darkness of space will be clearly visible. Passengers will be able to see approximately 450 miles (724 km) in every direction.
The full experience will last about six hours and it will cost about $125,000. Space Perspective also recently showed off the luxury interior of its capsule. Now, the company says the spherical design of the exterior "accommodates a roomier interior with more headroom, and the additional safety benefits of being optimal for pressure resistance."
In its statement, Space Perspective founder and co-CEO Taber MacCallum said, "centuries of balloon and parachute operation and development demonstrate that always flying with the balloon from launch through landing, with traditional parachutes as a reserve backup system, is by far the simplest, safest and most robust solution."
Space Perspective says it came up with its new capsule design following thousands of virtual flight tests and simulations. It collaborated with Siemens Digital Industries on the design, which features a splash cone for water landings, a thermal control system, and reflective coated windows. Space Perspective is currently building the capsule at its facility near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. That's the same location from which it plans to launch its space balloon rides.
The space tourism race heats up
Space Perspective's system offers a carbon neutral, zero-emission form of space tourism. Other firms, including Barcelona's Zero 2 Infinity, have a similar offering.
The same can't be said for the likes of Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic – though the former arguably lives up to the name of space tourism by actually flying over the Kármán Line. Even then, some argue that Blue Origin's New Shepard spacecraft only reaches suborbital space, so its passengers shouldn't be classified as astronauts.
SpaceX, on the other hand, has recently taken space tourists to orbit on a couple occasions. The company launched Axiom Space's Ax-1 mission to the International Space Station aboard a Crew Dragon capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket in April. Before that, in September last year, SpaceX also sent four passengers on a four-day orbital journey aboard one of its Crew Dragon capsules.
Ticket costs between all of these offerings vary greatly, but Virgin Galactic recently charged $450,000 for a ticket, while Zero 2 Infinity aims to charge a similar fee to Space Perspective's $125,000. Space Perspective says it has already sold 900 tickets at that price. The company expects to get commercial flights started by about 2024. While Space Perspective's claims of revolutionizing space tourism may feel misguided — as it won't actually reach space — it will be interesting to see if space balloon firms do carve a solid niche for themselves in the burgeoning space tourism industry.