A new startup has announced plans to carry passengers to the “edge of space” using a giant balloon.
In a June 18 press release, Space Perspective announced plans to fly passengers and research payloads to the “edge of space” in its Spaceship Neptune vehicle. The vehicle consists of a pressurized capsule carried to space on the end of a giant balloon measuring the length of a football field.
“We’re committed to fundamentally changing the way people have access to space – both to perform much-needed research to benefit life on Earth and to affect how we view and connect with our planet,” said founder and Co-CEO Jane Poynter.
The Spaceship Neptune vehicle will be capable of carrying a pilot and eight passengers, which the company refers to as “Explorers”, to an altitude of 100,000 feet. This is well above the 35,000-foot cruising altitude of a Boeing 747 but also well short of the Karem line, the generally agreed-upon boundary between Earth and space which is at an altitude of 62 miles (327,000 feet).
The six-hour flight includes a two-hour “gentle ascent”, two-hour cruise at 100,000 feet, and a two-hour decent under the balloon concluding with a splashdown. Passengers are then retrieved by a recovery ship and returned to the company’s “homebase” at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Space Perspective has targeted early 2021 for a maiden uncrewed flight of the Spaceship Neptune vehicle. According to the company, the flight will carry a “suite of research payloads” both to monitor the vehicle’s performance and for commercial customers. It is currently unclear when the company plans to begin selling tickets following its maiden flight.