While Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic will rely on raw rocket power to send paying customers on rides to the edge of space, Florida-based Space Perspective is offering an altogether gentler experience– using a giant balloon.
Just days after the balloon’s first-ever test flight, Space Perspective this week announced the launch of ticket sales for trips starting in 2024.
Costing $125,000 per seat, Space Perspective’s airborne experience will begin with up to eight passengers climbing aboard the piloted Spaceship Neptune capsule, which, incidentally, also has enough room for a bar and bathroom.
A massive state-of-the-art hydrogen-filled balloon will then carry the passengers on a two-hour ascent to around 20 miles above Earth — about three times higher than a long-haul flight. They’ll then have two hours to enjoy jaw-dropping views of Earth below and the blackness of space above before ending the journey with a leisurely two-hour descent to the ocean.
The initial service will launch from Florida’s Space Coast Spaceport, a short distance from the Kennedy Space Center, though Space Perspective plans to add more launch sites around the world.
The company said the Spaceship Neptune capsule will also be “the first-of-its-kind space laboratory, able to repeatedly test and capture data from a part of Earth’s atmosphere which to date has been little researched, paving the way for more scientific and creative breakthroughs … in climate and atmospheric science, [and] astro and solar physics.”
While certainly not cheap at $125,000 (a $1,000 deposit is all that’s required for now), a seat aboard Spaceship Neptune is half the cost of a place on Virgin Galactic’s rocket-powered aircraft for its upcoming space tourism service. Blue Origin is yet to announce a price for its own experience, but it’s expected to be similar to Virgin Galactic’s fee.
The experiences will be very different, too, with Space Perspective’s balloon only reaching a third of the height targeted by Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, both of whom will send passengers to the Kármán line about 62 miles above Earth, a point widely regarded as the edge of space. There’ll be no weightless experience on Space Perspective’s trip, either, whereas passengers on the other two experiences will be able to float around the cabin for a short time.
Still, Space Perspective’s ride will last a good deal longer than the other two (Blue Origin’s, for example, is over in 10 minutes), and will be perfect for those who recoil at the idea of a stomach-churning rocket ride.