Mood lighting, swanky seats, plants, a bar … and a restroom with an out-of-this-world view: Those are the sorts of perks you’d expect on a luxury cruise, but the cruise that Space Perspective plans to offer with those amenities will take you 100,000 feet up, lofted by a balloon.
The Florida-based venture has just unveiled the interior design for its Spaceship Neptune capsule, which is meant to carry up to eight passengers and a pilot into the stratosphere for a look at the curving Earth beneath the black sky of space.
Space Perspective says more than 600 customers have put in their reservations at a price of $125,000 for trips that are due to begin in 2024. And to whet your appetite for the adventure, the company is offering an interactive 3-D visualization of the capsule that you can wander through virtually.
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“Our mission is to inspire Space Explorers to connect more closely with our planet and each other, and the environment in which they travel with us is central to this,” Jane Poynter, Space Perspective’s co-CEO and chief experience officer, said in a news release. “Our Space Lounge is a world away from the white, utilitarian environments you find in other spacecraft.”
You could quibble over calling Spaceship Neptune a spacecraft. The capsule won’t go anywhere near the boundary of outer space, whether you consider that to be 50 miles or 100 kilometers (62 miles) up. There won’t be any rocket blast. You won’t get shoved into your seat by a jolt of high G’s, and you won’t float around the cabin in zero-G.
Instead, you’ll climb into a cushy cabin with potted plants, a telescope on a tripod, floor lamps and a bar stocked with snacks and drinks of your choice. Interior mood lighting can be adjusted from warm red to deep blue. Factoids about your surroundings will be highlighted on a scrolling display above your head. And yes, there’ll be Wi-Fi.
The design includes a discreetly placed toilet with its own window looking out to the stratosphere. “It’s going to be the loo with the best view in the universe,” Poynter joked during a recent ClickOrlando.com interview.
If the look of the loo is consistent with the look of the rest of the cabin, it should be far more comfortable than, say, the curtain-shielded zero-G toilet that’s built into the ceiling of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule. Suborbital spaceships such as Blue Origin’s New Shepard or Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo don’t even have toilets on board, primarily because riders aren’t expected to be in the cabin for much more than an hour.
Space Perspective’s stratospheric flights are expected to take longer. Spaceship Neptune’s hydrogen-filled balloon would rise at a relatively leisurely rate of 12 mph from Florida’s Space Coast Spaceport, reaching a peak altitude of around 100,000 feet. After floating for a few hours in the stratosphere, the balloon and its pressurized passenger capsule would descend to an at-sea landing and recovery. A parachute system would be built into the capsule as an emergency backup.
Space Perspective is aiming to offer space-themed tourism experiences that are more adventurous than a zero-gravity airplane flight, but less expensive and less risky than rocket-powered spaceflights. Last year, the company conducted a 6.5-hour, 108,000-foot-high flight test of its balloon system and announced a $40 million financing round to support further development.
The computerized renderings of the passenger cabin are currently being turned into flight-ready hardware, and Space Perspective plans to unveil the capsule later this year in advance of the next round of flight tests. David Grutman, an entrepreneur who specializes in the hospitality field, will advise the company as experience curator. Taber MacCallum, Space Perspective’s co-CEO and chief technology officer, said the company has secured a patent for structural engineering and has two design patents pending.
“The quintessential spaceflight experience is a shared human experience, and we’re super proud of this significant milestone as we move full steam ahead toward commercial flight,“ MacCallum said.
Space Perspective isn’t the only company aiming for the stratospheric tourism market. Before founding their current venture in 2019, Poynter and MacCallum were in charge of World View Enterprises, an Arizona-based company that pioneered the development of “Stratollites” — uncrewed balloon-borne platforms for science experiments.
Even though Poynter and MacCallum no longer head up that company, World View is continuing to pursue a vision for passenger flights similar to Space Perspective’s concept. There are a couple of differences: World View is targeting a $50,000 price point, and it also touts the idea of flying balloons above picturesque places such as the Grand Canyon, the Brazilian Amazon or Egypt’s pyramids.
World View says it’s already taken 250 pre-orders for flights that the company plans to start offering in 2024 — which hints at some sky-high competition ahead.
Lead image: A high-angle overview shows the interior design for Space Perspective’s Spaceship Neptune passenger capsule. (Source: Space Perspective)