KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – A new startup plans to use a giant balloon to carry paying customers to the edge of space for a unique view of the Earth, and their journey will start from the former space shuttle runway at Kennedy Space Center or at the spaceport in Jacksonville.
Space Perspectives signed a lease with Space Florida, the state’s spaceport authority, to locate its first operations center for the Neptune capsule at the Launch and Landing Facility, formerly the shuttle landing runway. Neptune will be carried to 100,000 feet using a giant balloon.
The company is led by entrepreneurs Jane Poynter and Taber MacCallum.
Neptune is capable of carrying eight passengers, paying around $125,000 each, and a captain on each flight, according to Poynter. The company has not set the exact price of a flight yet but estimated it would be able half of what Virgin Galactic is charging for a trip on its space plane.
The private company announced Thursday its intent to fly the first passengers to the edge of space beginning next year.
Passengers will ride in a the reusable pressurized capsule with large windows in their normal clothes while enjoying amenities, including drinks and food, or using the time to perform an experiment, according to Space Perspectives website.
And yes, there will be a lavatory on board, because “If you have a bar you have to have a bathroom,” MacCallum said.
The journey will take about six hours.
In the winter months, Neptune will liftoff from KSC and land in the Atlantic Ocean, where a boat will be waiting to pick up the capsule. During the summer, the spacecraft will land in the Gulf of Mexico.
“It takes us about two hours to get up to 100,000 feet. We’ll float there for two hours and then slowly start to decent (at) about 12 miles an hour, splashing down into the water. (Passengers) will get picked up by a boat, much like the SpaceX Dragon capsule gets picked up,” MacCallum said.
The company also has an agreement with the Cecil Spaceport in Jacksonville to launch Neptune.
The founders said Neptune is capable of launching anywhere in the world.
Poynter said the company has yet to determine where the Neptune spacecraft will be manufactured but they are considering some Florida options.
The company is already taking reservations on its website at thespaceperspective.com.
“We anticipate pretty strong demand,” Poynter said. “And so what we’re doing is asking people to actually sign up now, so that we can put you in line.”
Before any paying customers can enjoy views from 100,000 feet above Earth, Neptune must first undergo a first test flight. MacCallum said the company is working on hiring test pilots and captains for the spacecraft.