New design unveiled for Kennedy Space Center’s space balloon

When passengers lift off on a massive space balloon from Kennedy Space Center in a few years, they’ll fly in a sleek, cone-shaped capsule with reflective windows offering 360-degree views 20 miles above the Earth’s surface.

Space Perspective has unveiled new designs for the exterior of what looks like a high-tech golf ball on a tee for the capsule of its Spaceship Neptune space balloon which is manufactured at facilities on the Space Coast.

Key to the design are exterior and interior features designed to ensure passenger comfort and safety during six-hour flights scheduled to begin in 2024, the company said in a press release.

Luxury flights cost $125,000, with deposits starting at $1,000 per person, with nearly 900 booked so far, the company said. It aims to fly 25 flights in its first year of operation.

“The team came together to create an incredibly robust, safe, incredibly elegant and luxurious system for the Neptune spacecraft,” said company founder, co-CEO and CTO Taber MacCallum. “Simplicity and automation are the keys to security.”

The spherical design allows more space for up to eight guests to provide fuller views during the ride that will spend two hours ascending, two hours floating above, then two hours descending back to Earth in a suspended capsule a 650 foot -large balloon.

While the company is planning on-time flights from many global launch points, the first trips will take off from the former space shuttle program landing site at KSC, now managed by Space Florida, the development agency aerospace economy of the state. Landings will take place in the Gulf of Mexico.

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The T-shape under the sphere is designed to facilitate landings on water, which the company says has been determined by NASA to be the least risky way to land. SpaceX Dragon capsules and Orion capsules planned in the Artemis program are designed for water landings, while Boeing Starliner capsules perform land landings.

“Centuries of balloon and parachute operation and development demonstrate that always flying the balloon from launch to landing, with traditional parachutes as a backup backup system, is by far the simplest, most safest and most robust,” MacCallum said. “Our proprietary flight system means the capsule and [space balloon] always stay connected, and take-off and landing conditions are always under our control.

Once it lands in the water, recovery boats will pick up the passengers, capsule and balloon for the return trip to Brevard County.

Working with Siemens Digital Industries, the company’s updated capsule design features what it says is better pressure resistance due to the spherical design and reflective-coated windows to limit solar effects on the view and comfort inside, which will also use a thermal control system.

The company previously revealed interior design renderings that include reclining seats, a bar, restrooms and mood lighting. Passengers will be able to use on-board satellite imagery and 360-degree cameras capable of zooming in on features both on Earth’s surface and in space.

Flights are subject to approval by the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Flight.

He had previously completed a successful test flight in June 2021 with an unmanned balloon that reached an altitude of 108,409ft. The company plans a crewed test flight in 2023.