(CNN) — The race for space tourism is now firing at all rockets, but one company hopes to create a niche as “the only carbon-neutral, zero-emission way” to travel to the edge of space.
Florida-based Space Perspective plans to take passengers up to 100,000 feet for suborbital adventures in a pressurized capsule suspended from a massive high-tech version of a hot air balloon. New images released on July 27 show the latest patented capsule design for its Neptune spaceship.
It’s a more spacious interior than in previous iterations, with a bulbous capsule design that offers travelers more head height and adds the safety advantage of being optimal for pressure resistance. And we get a closer look at the luxurious Space Lounge, with its deep reclining seats, mood lighting and well-stocked bar.
Reflective coated windows, similar to an astronaut’s helmet, are fitted to keep temperatures comfortable, while a new thermal control system is patent pending.
Space Perspective collaborated on this fresh design with London-based studio Of My Imagination (OMI). The 360-degree panoramic views afforded by what Space Perspective describes as “the largest ever patented windows to be brought to the edge of space” were—in a satisfying example of nominative determinism—developed by Dan Window, along with experienced designer Isabella Trani.
Other improvements include a splash cone (patent pending) for a smooth and safe water landing at sea.
And in terms of scale, the company likens the capsule to the size of “a large balcony cabin on a cruise ship,” while the balloon is about 18,000,000 cubic feet when fully expanded — big enough for a football stadium to float in.
Because it does not leave Earth’s gravity, no specialized training is required and travelers can walk through the capsule environment. The company claims that the boarding process will be as simple as that of an airplane.
The trips will involve a gentle two-hour climb above 99% of the Earth’s atmosphere. After that, passengers have two hours to enjoy the view from the cabin before the spaceship makes its two-hour descent into the ocean. The journey to the coast is made by ship.
There will be on-board Wi-Fi so travelers can livestream their experience to those at home, and there will also be on-board cameras capturing all the action. Satellite images and the 360-degree cameras also allow you to zoom in and out on the epic vista.
The price tag is, unsurprisingly, not cheap. Tickets cost a once-in-a-lifetime $125,000 per person, but Space Perspective says nearly 900 have already been sold. They are now taking bookings for 2025 and beyond, with the $1,000 deposit refunded in full should this particular space bubble burst. Customers can also pay via crypto currency, which should appeal to the crossover of expensive consumers who are not risk averse.
Space Perspective co-founders, Jane Poynter and Taber MacCallum, previously designed the air, food and water systems for the Biosphere 2 space base, in which they lived for two years.
The company’s zero-emission claim rests on the craft defying gravity rather than using high-energy rockets to fly into space.
Because helium is limited and needed for critical medical applications, spaceship Neptune uses hydrogen. “The lift gas in the balloon is lighter than air and allows Neptune to float on top of Earth’s atmosphere like an ice cube on water,” says Space Perspective.
The spaceship is all reusable except for the material that makes up the balloon’s skin – this is collected and recycled by the team at the end of each flight.
“Centuries of balloon and parachute operations and development show that always flying the balloon from launch to landing, using traditional parachutes as a backup backup system, is by far the simplest, safest and most robust solution,” MacCallum said in a statement. Our patented flight system means that the capsule and SpaceBalloon always remain connected and take-off and landing conditions are always within our control.”