The Future Of Space Tourism May Include A Stadium-Sized Balloon
The space tourism biz has been more science fiction than science fact, of late. With frontrunners Virgin Galactic and SpaceX fraught by scheduling delays, space-hungry travelers may have to look elsewhere to get their extra-terrestrial kicks. Budding high-altitude balloon company World View hopes to fill the sky-wide market gap—with a balloon.
The World View system uses a massive balloon—the size of a football stadium, according to its site—made of high performance polyethylene film. Beneath the balloon there’s a parafoil which remains fully extended throughout the flight, allowing the pilot to control its direction and prevent rapid descent. All this is connected to a sealed passenger capsule with three wide windows.
World View and its parent company, the Paragon Space Development Corporation, have approached UK design studio Priestmangoode to design the bulk of the capsule. Director Nigel Goode told Wired about the futuristic atmosphere he wants the carrier section to have, saying, “It’s got to look as though you’re traveling to space. Every element is so the passenger feels like one of the chosen few, sitting in an environment that won’t be familiar for them.”
The company is aiming to lift tourists to 100,000 ft. above the surface of Earth, high enough to achieve the out of this world “black sky” effect. This means that it will look like the space tourists are actually in space. In actuality, 100,000 ft. is still within the realm of Earth’s atmosphere—but only just. This is also high enough to perform much of the research currently conducted on the ISS, giving the scientific community more than enough reason to pay attention to the latest developments in high altitude ballooning.
The World View team is very confident in their ability to succeed where other space tourism forays have so far failed. You can already book a $75,000 ticket (with a $5,000 deposit). Time will tell if offering tickets before the interior's finished is a bit of a braggadocio move. If World View is the first to tap into the bubbling space tourism game, they may hit the luxury travel goldmine at 100,000 feet. We’re pretty sure they’ll have R. Kelly’s I Believe I Can Fly on repeat throughout the entire maiden voyage—and we’re completely ok with that.