Space Startup Promises 30-Mile-High Balloon Rides to the ‘Edge of Space’

An anonymous reader quotes CBS News:
Researchers, armchair astronauts and even brides and grooms looking for an out-of-this-world wedding experience will be able to celebrate, collect data or simply enjoy the view from an altitude of 100,000 feet in a balloon-borne pressurized cabin, complete with a bar and a restroom, a space startup announced Thursday.

“Spaceship Neptune,” operated by a company called Space Perspective from leased facilities at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, will carry eight passengers at a time on six-hour flights [with a crew member]. The passenger cabin, lifted by a huge hydrogen-filled balloon, will climb at a sedate 12 miles per hour to an altitude of about 30 miles high. That will be followed by a slow descent to splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean where a recovery ship will be standing by to secure the cabin and crew.

Test flights carrying scientific research payloads are expected to begin in 2021. The first flights carrying passengers are expected within the next three-and-a-half years or so, with piloted test flights before that. While the company initially will operate out of the Florida spaceport, the system could be launched from multiple sites around the world, with Hawaii and Alaska near-term possibilities.
They’re expecting to charge around $125,000 per passenger, according to the article — about half the price of higher sub-orbital flight on a Virgin Galactic rocket-powered spaceplane. Though Spaceship Neptune’s customers will not experience weightlessness, their CEO is still promising “opportunities for civilian astronauts to experience this planet Earth from the edge of space, a privilege previously available to only a few.”

And they’re also touting “really great” live air-to-ground communication — which they think would be great for corporate events.

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