(CNN) — The space tourism race is all rockets firing now, but one company hopes to carve out 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 to 100,000 feet for suborbital adventures in a pressurized capsule suspended from an enormous high-tech version of a hot-air balloon. New images released on July 27 show the latest patented capsule design for its spaceship Neptune spacecraft.
It has a more spacious interior than previous iterations, with a rounded capsule design giving travelers more headroom, as well as the added safety benefit of superior pressure resistance. And we get a better look at the luxury space lounge, with its deeply comfortable seats, mood lighting and well-stocked bar.
Reflective coated windows, similar to astronaut helmets, are in place to help keep temperatures comfortable, while a new thermal control system is patent-pending.
Space Perspective worked with London-based Studio of My Imagination (OMI) on this new design. The 360-degree panoramic views provided by what Space Perspective describes as “the largest, patented window ever taken to the edge of space” — in a satisfying example of nominal determinism — were developed by spaceship Neptune’s experience design lead Dan, a veteran With designer Isabella Trani.
Other improvements include a patent-pending splash cone for easier and safer water landings in the sea.
And in terms of scale, the company compares the capsule to the size of “a giant balcony stateroom on a cruise ship,” while the balloon is about 18,000,000 cubic feet when fully inflated — big enough to float a football stadium inside.
Because it does not leave Earth’s gravity, no specialist training will be required and tourists will be able to walk around the capsule environment. The company claims that the boarding process will be as easy as an airplane.
These trips will involve a gentle two-hour ascent above 99% of the Earth’s atmosphere. Passengers will have another two hours to enjoy the views from the cabin before the spaceship makes its two-hour descent into the ocean. The journey to shore will be completed by ship.
There will be Wi-Fi on board so travelers can livestream their experience for those back home, and there will also be on-board cameras documenting all the action. Satellite imagery and 360-degree cameras will also make it possible to zoom in and out of Epic Vista.
The price tag, surprisingly, is not cheap. Once-in-a-lifetime tickets cost $125,000 per person, but Space Perspectives says it has already sold about 900 of them. They’re now taking bookings for 2025 and beyond, with the $1,000 deposit fully refundable should this particular space bubble pop. Customers can also pay via crypto-currency, which appeals to a crossover of risk-averse spendthrift consumers.
Space Perspective co-founders Jane Poynter and Tabor McCallum previously designed the air, food and water systems for the Biosphere 2 space base, where they lived for two years.
The company’s zero-emissions claim is based on the fact that instead of using high-energy rockets to get into space, its craft avoid gravity through buoyancy.
Since helium is in limited supply and required for critical medical applications, the spaceship Neptune uses hydrogen. “The lift gas inside the balloon is lighter than air and allows Neptune to float like an ice cube on water at the top of Earth’s atmosphere,” says Space Perspective.
All of the spaceship is reusable, except for the materials that make up the balloon’s skin — which will be recovered and recycled by the team at the end of each flight.
“Centuries of balloon and parachute operation and development have shown that always flying with a balloon through the landing, with a conventional parachute as a reserve backup system, is by far the easiest, safest and most robust solution,” McCallum said in a statement. Our proprietary flight system means that the capsule and space balloon are always connected and the take-off and landing conditions are always under our control.”