The successful commercial launches of Blue Origin, SpaceX and Virgin Galactic have officially ushered in a new era of space tourism. But unlike those companies, which plan to take people into space using rockets or spaceplanes, startup Space Perspective, created two years ago, takes a different approach.
Instead of going into space aboard a rocket, the development of which is prohibitive and may not appeal to all customers, the startup plans to offer walks in the stratosphere using an attached capsule. to a large balloon. Its projects have aroused the interest of investors: the company announced Thursday that it had raised $ 40 million in Series A to carry out its first commercial flights scheduled for the end of 2024.
Space Perspective has already collected 475 reservations, each secured by a deposit of between $ 10,000 and $ 25,000, depending on when the passenger plans to fly. The total cost of a seat is $ 125,000.
Not following the rocket route has its drawbacks. While a hot air balloon ride is significantly cheaper and may attract customers who are more risk averse, customers will not go as high in the atmosphere and feel zero gravity. Instead of reaching or crossing the Kármán Line, the internationally recognized but ultimately invisible border demarcating “space” 50 miles above sea level, the stratospheric balloon will take guests about 20 miles above sea level. above the Earth. (This is still significantly higher than a commercial airplane flight, which only reaches about 7 miles above sea level.)
But Space Perspective promises that its 6-hour journey will always offer spectacular views, especially of the curvature of the Earth and the darkness of space. The plan is for the space balloon to gradually ascend for two hours at 12 miles per hour, hover in climax for two hours, and then spend the final hours of the flight gradually descending. The capsule will crash into the ocean, where eight clients and a pilot will be picked up by a ship, much like NASA and SpaceX collect their crewed capsules.
There are other advantages of not going so high: From the description, it looks like the Space Perspective hot air balloon ride will be more like a first class commercial flight with any major airline today, rather than an astronaut launch. Guests will apparently have access to WiFi and even a bar. No special training will be required either; a company spokesperson said the pre-flight safety briefing will be similar to that given by flight attendants today.
The company has already taken a significant step forward by successfully launching an unmanned, unpressurized, full-size capsule simulator to target altitude in June from Space Coast Spaceport in Florida. The next round of test flights will also be unmanned, followed by the first piloted test flight in 2023.
Space Perspective was founded by husband and wife and co-CEOs Jane Poynter and Taber MacCallum. The two were crew members of Biosphere 2, an ambitious and eccentric project to recreate the conditions of Earth in a closed system. They then founded Paragon Space Development Corporation, which develops survival systems for astronauts, and World View Enterprises, a company which develops stratospheric balloons for remote sensing. Earlier this month, World View also announced that it will offer stratospheric balloon flights by 2024, for $ 50,000.
Series A was led by Prime Movers Lab, with additional participation from new investors LightShed Ventures, Explorer 1 Fund, and Yamauchi no.10 Family Office. Other investors include Tony Robbins, venture capital firms E2MC and SpaceFund, Kirenaga Partners, Base Ventures and 1517 Fund.