Space Perspective, a Florida-based company, plans to take tourists on six-hour trips up to 100,000 feet in its Spaceship Neptune starting in late 2024. Ticket prices are set at $125,000 per person and the company says it has already sold out all available slots for 2024.
Although they call it a spaceship, Neptune and its passengers do not go to outer space, which is generally considered to be 62 miles above the Earth’s surface, just above the Karman Line. This boundary defines the lower boundary of outer space in space treatises and aerospace records. Neptune will however arrive at around 19 miles above the Earth, putting it above 99% of Earth’s atmosphere, and easily high enough to see the curvature of the Earth.
Neptunewhich its developers call “the most accessible, durable and safest spacecraft on or above planet Earth”, consists of a balloon, a reserve descent system and a capsule .
The balloon is based on technology the company has used for decades on missions with NASA and other government agencies to carry telescopes and other heavy instruments aloft. It uses hydrogen as the lift gas and is 18,000,000 cu ft when fully expanded. That would make it about 324 feet in diameter if it were a sphere when fully inflated. The entire spacecraft – balloon, wiring and capsule – stands more than 700 feet high before launching from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, and prevailing winds are expected to blow it over the Atlantic Ocean. .
Neptune lacks propellants or propulsion and floats freely. It cannot be directed.
The pressurized capsule is large enough to accommodate eight passengers and a pilot. The accommodations include comfortable seating, adjustable lighting, a sound system, a bar and a bathroom fitted with a window. Passengers can stand and walk around, and the Wi-Fi will allow them to say in contact with people on Earth. Windows measuring 1.8 feet wide and 5 feet high – the largest windows on an “aircraft” that has flown this high – surround the capsule, giving passengers 360 degrees. to see.
The capsule can be reconfigured for special events. For example, if your budget allows, the company will organize weddings and even dinners for two.
The emergency descent system consists of four parachutes attached to the capsule. If necessary, they can be deployed to transport the capsule to a safe landing, presumably in the Atlantic Ocean. This type of parachute-based approach has been used safely on over a thousand spacecraft flights.
On takeoff, the balloon climbs at 12 mph up to 100,000 feet as the pilot controls lift by adjusting the hydrogen pressure in the balloon. On typical passenger flights, which will be regulated by the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Flight, it will stay at that height for about two hours, then drop to 12 mph until it dips into the ocean. A specially shaped cone on the belly of the capsule will ensure a soft landing, the company explains. The capsule will then float, which could be a rocky ride, waiting to be picked up by a dedicated ship, which will pick up the passengers, the capsule, and the balloon.
Neptune can also be used for scientific missions and transport equipment up to 100.00 feet. For one of its test flights, for example, it carried winning projects in a science competition for students in grades 7-12. One of these experiments measured the magnetic field of the sun while another measured the effect of the near-space environment on memory materials. He also transported and tested ozone sensors developed at the University of North Florida.
More information on Spaceship Neptune and booking a flight can be found here.