As SpaceX and Blue Origin prepare to launch customers into space, Space Perspective, a luxury space travel company, looks to take the slow but steady route via a glass balloon that offers 360-degree views of Earth and space.
Space Perspective unveiled its Spaceship Neptune capsule in late July 2022. The carbon-neutral capsule will boast of a smooth, spherical vessel designed for comfort. The interior will include a bar, reclining seats, large 360-degree windows, WiFi and more.
The capsule is currently in production at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
To protect occupants, the capsule will feature reflective coated windows and a central sector similar to an astronaut’s helmet. This feature will limit solar gain and keep the interior of the lounger comfortable and cool.
Few details about the overall design of the patent-pending capsule are available. Kyle Sword, business development manager at Pilkington NSG, says the glass protecting the occupants will likely feature multilayer laminates. This is because the glass sandwich provides opportunities to add functionality, strengthen the glass and increase safety.
The space shuttle utilized a tempered alumino-silicate glass lite, which is also called a pressure lite. This allowed the shuttle to easily withstand extreme cabin pressure in the vacuum of space. The International Space Station uses low thermal expansion glass for the external window lites. This glass ensures that the station can withstand the cold of space, which can get down to 3 degrees Kelvin (minus 454.27 degrees Fahrenheit).
According to Space Perspective, the capsule went through meticulous testing in collaboration with Siemens, which provided expertise in the precise engineering of the capsule’s design. Thanks to the company’s software, the capsule’s unique spherical shape was designed to provide the most robust shape for pressure resistance and splashdown within the numerous environments that Spaceship Neptune will travel through during flight.
Space Perspective expects commercial flights to begin in late 2024. Tickets are priced at $125,000 per person and will offer travelers a six-hour round-trip journey. The capsule will ascend at 12 mph powered by renewable hydrogen and return to Earth following a gradual, two-hour descent with a splashdown in the ocean.
The capsule will feature a special splash cone to reduce the force of splashdown for a gentle landing. The cone will also serve as a stabilizing sea anchor once the capsule touches down in the ocean. The crew, passengers and capsule will be picked up by a ship.
“Centuries of balloon and parachute operation and development demonstrate that always flying with the balloon from launch through landing, with traditional parachutes as a reserve backup system, is by far the simplest, safest and most robust solution,” says Taber MacCallum, founder, co-CEO and chief technology officer (CTO) of Space Perspective.