The successful commercial launches of Blue Origin, SpaceX and Virgin Galactic have officially ushered in a new era of space tourism. But unlike these companies, which plan to take people into space using rockets or spaceplanes, Space Perspectives, a two-year-old startup, is taking a different step.
Instead of going to space on a rocket, which is prohibitively expensive to develop and may not appeal to all customers, the startup plans to offer a ride into the stratosphere using a capsule attached to a large balloon. Used to be. Its plans have attracted investor interest: The company said Thursday it had raised a $40 million Series A to take it through its first planned commercial flights in late 2024.
Space Perspectives has already collected 475 reservations, each of which was secured by depositing between $10,000 – $25,000, depending on how quickly the passenger wishes to fly. The total cost of one seat is $125,000.
Its business is closed by not going the rocket route. While a balloon ride is fairly inexpensive, and may appeal to more at-risk customers, customers will not move much into the atmosphere and will not experience any weightlessness. Instead of hitting or crossing the Karmann line delineating “space” at 50 miles above sea level, the internationally recognized but ultimately invisible boundary, the stratospheric balloon will carry customers about 20 miles above Earth. (That’s still much more than a commercial airplane ride, which only reaches about 7 miles above sea level.)
But Space Perspectives promises that its 6-hour ride will still offer spectacular views, especially of the curvature of the Earth and the blackness of space. The plan is to have the space balloon climb slowly at 12 mph for two hours, glide over the apogee for two hours, then spend the final hours of flight slowly descending. The capsule will drop into the ocean, where eight customers and a pilot will be scooped up by a ship, just as NASA and SpaceX retrieve their crew capsules.
There are other benefits of not going too far: From the description, it looks like the Space Perspective Balloon Ride will look and feel like a first-class commercial flight with any major airline today, rather than an astronaut launch. Customers will obviously have access to WiFi and even a bar. No special training will also be required; A company spokesperson said the pre-flight safety briefing will be similar to the briefing given by flight attendants today.
The company has already hit a major milestone, successfully launching an unmanned, pressurized full-size capsule simulator to target altitude in June from the Space Coast Spaceport in Florida. The next series of test flights will also be crewless, followed by the first pilot test flight in 2023.
Space Perspectives was founded by husband and wife and co-CEOs Jane Poynter and Tabor McCallum. The pair were members of the crew of Biosphere 2, an ambitious and singular project to recreate Earth conditions in an enclosed system. He later founded Paragon Space Development Corporation, which develops life-support systems for astronauts, and World View Enterprises, a company developing stratospheric balloons for remote sensing. Earlier this month, World View also announced that it would offer a stratospheric balloon ride by 2024 for $50,000.
Series A was led by Prime Movers Lab, with additional participation from new investors Lightshade Ventures, Explorer 1 Fund and Yamauchi No. 10 Family Office. Additional investors include Tony Robbins, VC firms E2MC and SpaceFund, Kirenga Partners, Base Ventures and 1517 Fund.