A US space tourism firm is offering people the chance to travel 19 miles upwards into the stratosphere in a capsule propelled by a helium balloon – all for $75,000.
World View Enterprises, an Arizona off-shoot of Paragon Space Development Corporation, is preparing to send eight people – six passengers and two pilots – half way to outer space (30km from the surface of the Earth) in a pressurised capsule attached to a 40 million cubic-feet helium balloon.
From the proposed height, which is over double the cruising height of a typical commercial jet, passengers will be able to take in a view of the curvature of the earth, all while sipping “the beverage of your choice”, World View says.
The flight would begin at Spaceport American in New Mexico and would take from one and half to two hours to reach to maximum height, a letter from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to Paragon said. During the ascent, passengers would experience a period of weightlessness, and would then stay in the stratosphere for around 2 hours.
For the descent, which would take 20-40 minutes, a period of free fall would be followed by deceleration thanks to a steerable parafoil, guiding the capsule back to earth. The capsule has been awarded the same safety level by NASA as “human rated rockets”.
Extensive safety testing of the capsule will now commence, with Jane Poynter, CEO of World View, predicting that tickets will be on sale within two months. Flights, however, are only planned to begin in 3 years’ time.
World View’s space voyage looks set to rival Richard Branson’s space tourism project, Virgin Galactic. Ticket’s for Branson’s SpaceShipTwo will reportedly cost $200,000 (£125,000).