The commercial spaceflight industry is led by the likes of SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, and Blue Origin, utilizing powerful rockets to shoot customers into space for a few minutes at a time, but one company is opting for a different method—luxury space balloons.
Space Perspective plans to launch a capsule lifted by a giant hydrogen balloon vehicle named Spaceship Neptune in 2024. It seats eight passengers and one pilot. The total flight time is expected to be six hours, two of which are spent at its apogee of 100,000 feet. The ascent will obviously be much slower than that of a rocket, climbing at a mere 12 mph into the upper layers of the atmosphere. On the descent, the vehicle will splash down in a designated area in the ocean, to be picked up by a specially-designed passenger ship and carried back to shore.
SpaceX’s recent mission, Inspiration4, sent customers 364 miles into Earth’s orbit—higher than the international space station. The flight lasted nearly 3 days. As for Blue Origin, its latest mission, NS-18, lasted only 11 minutes and sent customers to an apogee of 347,000 feet. This makes Spaceship Neptune’s flight the lowest of the three, but substantially longer than Blue Origin’s short flight.
What makes the Spaceship Neptune flight “luxurious,” the company says, are the 360-degree panoramic windows, in-flight refreshment bar, and free Wi-Fi.
The company recently announced it has raised $40 million as part of its effort. From its inception, the company has raised a total of $48 million to make luxury space tourism a reality and has gained new donors such as LightShed Ventures, the Explorer 1 Fund, and Yamauchi no.10 Family Office.
“This is an important milestone for Space Perspective, and we are thrilled to have secured this mission-critical support from Prime Movers Lab,” said co-CEO and Chief Technology Officer Taber MacCallum in a statement.
“Our successful, first test-flight in June, which lifted to the target altitude of 108,000 feet, signaled that all systems are ‘go’ for our sustainable approach to space tourism. Our brilliant engineers and safety experts have devised a fail-safe SpaceBalloon vehicle and propulsion system executed to the same exacting safety and performance standards befitting a NASA mission.”
“Space Perspective represents the next frontier of the experience economy,” said Brandon Ross, GP, LightShed Ventures, in a statement. “The company makes space travel accessible to people of any age, and without any special physical training. The sky’s no longer the limit!”
For those trying to save money on their space vacation, Space Perspective is offering competitive pricing. Customers will have to pay $125,000 for each ticket—which have already sold out for the inaugural 2024 flights—as compared to Virgin Galactic’s $450,000 tickets.
Flights for 2025 are currently open for reservations.
Based at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Space Perspective will be launching Spaceship Neptune from Cape Canaveral and landing nearby in the Atlantic Ocean.