A U.S. startup Space Perspective has announced plans to fly passengers and research payloads to the edge of space in a giant high-performance balloon and pressurized capsule to observe the curvature of our beautiful planet Earth.
Designed to be an alternative to the emerging rocket-based space tourism sector, the device is called “Spaceship Neptune.” This capsule is comprised of a four-meter-tall and five-meter-wide pressurized pod shaped like a spinning top, which is attached to a giant high-altitude balloon. That is, it will be totally different from rocket takeoffs and other products already known.
The balloon measures the length of a football stadium, and the pressurized capsule is comfortable and spacious. The entire capsule was designed to give the crew the best view possible. Therefore, the walls are made of glass, similar to windows, that go from the floor to the top. The ceiling is also designed with a transparent space, which can be seen from above.
The idea is to take a pilot and up to eight passengers called “Explorers” and a suite of research payloads to the edge of space and safely back. According to Space Perspective, the journey into space will be relatively short. It will carry people and payloads on a two-hour gentle ascent above 99% of the Earth’s atmosphere to 100,000 feet, where it cruises above the Earth for up to two hours allowing passengers to enjoy truly breathtaking views of their home planet.
Neptune then makes a two-hour descent under the balloon and splashes down, where a ship retrieves the passengers, the capsule, and the balloon.
Spaceship Neptune is supposed to lift from the iconic Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. The goal is to make people have a complete experience, moving away from the Earth and having a better dimension of the immensity of space.
It all seems a little strange but hey … there are really no rules when it comes to space tourism, right? At least not yet. Each person who is interested in participating in this adventure will need to pay a total of $125,000. It’s not cheap, but it will be a unique experience of its kind and without being “shot” by anything.
The first test flight of the Spaceship Neptune is scheduled to take place in 2021, but without taking any passengers. The first test with people on board is scheduled for 2023. In 2024 commercial operations are already expected to begin.