As SpaceX and Blue Origin prepare to launch customers into space, Space Perspective, a luxury space travel company, is looking to take the slow but steady route via a glass balloon that offers a 360-degree view of the Earth and space.
Space Perspective unveiled its Spaceship Neptune capsule in late July 2022. The carbon-neutral capsule will boast a smooth, spherical vessel designed for comfort. The interior will feature 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 inside of the lounger comfortable and cool.
Few details of the overall design of the patent-pending capsule are available. Kyle Sword, director of business development at Pilkington NSG, says glass protecting occupants will likely feature multi-layer laminates. Indeed, the glass sandwich offers opportunities to add functionality, strengthen the glass and increase safety.
The space shuttle used a tempered alumino-silicate glass lite, also called pressure lite. This allowed the shuttle to easily withstand the extreme pressure of the cabin in the vacuum of space. The International Space Station uses low thermal expansion glass for exterior panes. This glass ensures that the station can withstand the cold of space, which can drop down to 3 degrees Kelvin (minus 454.27 degrees Fahrenheit).
According to Space Perspective, the capsule was meticulously tested in conjunction with Siemens, which provided expertise in the precise engineering of the capsule’s design. Using the company’s software, the capsule’s unique spherical shape was engineered to provide the most robust shape for pressure and splash resistance in the many environments the Neptune spacecraft will traverse during flight.
Space Perspective expects commercial flights to begin in late 2024. Tickets are priced at $125,000 per person and will provide travelers with a six-hour round trip. The capsule will climb at 20 km/h fueled by renewable hydrogen and return to Earth after a two-hour gradual descent with a splash in the ocean.
The capsule will feature a special splash cone to reduce splash force for a soft landing. The cone will also serve as a stabilizing sea anchor once the capsule hits the ocean. The crew, passengers and the capsule will be picked up by a ship.
“Centuries of balloon and parachute operation and development demonstrate that always flying the balloon from launch to landing, with traditional parachutes as a backup backup system, is by far the simplest, most secure and most robust,” said Taber MacCallum, Founder, Co-CEO and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Space Perspective.