SpaceX rival unveils ‘balloon-like’ spaceship to fly tourists to the edge of space

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Space Perspective, a start-up based in Florida, USA, has unveiled plans to ferry passengers up to the “edge of space” in a pressurised capsule that is suspended from an enormous high-tech version of a hot-air balloon. The company has finalised the designs for Spaceship Neptune, a sleek-looking capsule that could add another player in the competition space tourism that’s been dominated by Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, and Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

However, Space Perspective offers a much different experience than that of these interstellar behemoths.

Given its unique balloon-like design, the spaceship Neptune offers a relaxing, turbulence experience, as you ride a balloon all the way to the stratosphere while enjoying luxury amenities.

However, on this trip passengers will only go 20 miles above the Earth, compared to Blue Origin’s 65 miles and Virgin Galactic’s 50 miles.

But Spaceship Neptune will have a much longer flight, offering the eight passengers plenty of time to enjoy the unparalleled views during the six-hour trip.

In comparison, Blue Origin’s launch only took 11 minutes from start to finish, while Virgin Galactic’s flight lasted for about two and a half hours.

A ticket on this spaceship costs $125,000 (£103,000), which while prohibitively expensive for most, is far more affordable than $475,000 (£392,000) you would pay for a trip on the Virgin Galactic, and the reported $28million (£23million) tickets that were auctioned off for a chance to fly with Blue Origin.

Taber MacCallum, founder, and co-CEO of Space Perspective said: “Centuries of balloon and parachute operation and development demonstrate that always flying with the balloon from launch through landing, with traditional parachutes as a reserve backup system, is by far the simplest, safest and most robust solution.

“Our proprietary flight system means that the capsule and SpaceBalloon always remain connected, and take-off and landing conditions are always within our control.

“The team has come together to create an amazingly robust, safe, and incredibly elegant and luxurious system for Spaceship Neptune.”

The spaceship will also offer satellite imagery and 360-degree cameras to allow passengers to zoom in and out of Earth.

Space Perspective has already sold 900 tickets, although with commercial flights not launching until later 2024, there is some time to place the required $1,000 (£826) deposit for a ticket.

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Dan Window and Isabella Trani, the lead designers of the Spaceship Neptune said: “As design specialists, we have integrated the travel experience and aesthetic – from headroom and groups of Explorers being able to move around comfortably within Spaceship Neptune from chair to restroom to bar – to, of course, maximizing the once-in-a-lifetime views.

“We now also have an exterior aesthetic that is every bit as powerful as the interior … the engineering team have delivered an unsurpassable outcome in relation to performance and safety.”

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