Science

Space Perspective Unveils Capsule Design for Tourist Balloon Flights (Images)

The Space Perspective balloon capsule will not be the bubble gum shape we usually associate with this aerospace term.

The Florida-based company today (July 27) unveiled the look of its pressurized pod, which will begin ferrying customers into the stratosphere under a giant balloon in just two years, if all goes according to plan. The vessel, known as the Neptune spacecraft, will be spherical in shape.

The spherical shape maximizes panoramic views from the capsule’s windows, which will be the largest ever to fly so high, the company says. The Neptune spacecraft will also feature a patented “pop-up cone” at the base, which is designed to make landings in the ocean smoother and safer.

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Space Perspective’s Neptune spacecraft capsule will be carried into the stratosphere in a giant hot air balloon. (Image credit: space perspective)

“The team has come together to create an amazingly reliable, secure, and incredibly elegant and luxurious system for the Neptune spacecraft,” Taber McCallum, Space Perspective’s co-founder, co-CEO and chief technology officer, said today. “Simplicity and automation are the keys to security.”

Today’s presentation comes three months after Space Perspective revealed what the capsule will look like inside. The cockpit of the Neptune spacecraft will include a toilet with a view and a “Space Lounge” with a telescope and interactive screens, among other amenities.

Artist’s illustration of Space Perspective’s Neptune spacecraft with sunrise sunlight streaming in through large windows. (Image credit: space perspective)

Space Perspective has begun building the capsule at the shuttle landing site at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Neptune spacecraft, which can carry nine people — eight passengers and a pilot — is expected to begin commercial flights in late 2024, company officials said.

These flights will last about six hours from launch to splashdown. They will lift passengers to a maximum altitude of about 100,000 feet (30,000 meters), allowing us to see our rarefied atmosphere against the blackness of space. The Neptune spacecraft will not fly into space, and passengers will not feel weightless.

Space Perspective’s Neptune spacecraft capsule will have a luxurious interior. (Image credit: space perspective)

A seat aboard the capsule is currently on sale for $125,000, with about 900 people buying tickets to date, Space Perspective said.

The company has a competitor in the stratospheric tourism market, Arizona-based World View, which plans to offer a similar experience for $50,000 per seat.

These hot air balloon rides will be very different from the rocket rides offered by suborbital travel companies Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, whose vehicles only reach space briefly. Virgin Galactic is currently charging $450,000 for a seat on its SpaceShipTwo space plane; Blue Origin did not disclose ticket prices for its New Shepard vehicle.

Mike Wall is the author of Out There (will open in a new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrations by Carl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (will open in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (will open in a new tab) or on facebook (will open in a new tab).

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