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Space Perspective unveils capsule design for balloon-borne tourist flights (images)

Artist's illustration of Space Perspective's Spaceship Neptune capsule, which is designed to take paying customers to the stratosphere and back.
Artist's illustration of Space Perspective's Spaceship Neptune capsule, which is designed to take paying customers to the stratosphere and back. (Image credit: Space Perspective)

Space Perspective's balloon-borne capsule won't have the gumdrop shape we typically associate with that aerospace term.

The Florida-based company today (July 27) unveiled the exterior design of its pressurized capsule, which will begin carrying customers to the stratosphere beneath a giant balloon just two years from now, if all goes according to plan. The craft, known as Spaceship Neptune, will be spherical, it turns out.

A spherical shape maximizes the panoramic views afforded by the capsule's windows, which will be the largest ever to fly so high, company representatives said. Spaceship Neptune will also sport a proprietary "splash cone" at its base, which is designed to make its ocean landings softer and safer.

Related: The first space tourists in photos

Space Perspective's Spaceship Neptune capsule will be carried to the stratosphere by a giant balloon. (Image credit: Space Perspective)

"The team has come together to create an amazingly robust, safe and incredibly elegant and luxurious system for Spaceship Neptune," Taber MacCallum, Space Perspective's co-founder, co-CEO and chief technical officer, said in a statement today. "Simplicity and automation are the keys to safety." 

Today's reveal comes three months after Space Perspective showed off what the capsule will look like on the inside. Spaceship Neptune's cabin will feature a restroom with a view and a "Space Lounge" with a telescope and interactive screens, among other amenities.

Artist's illustration of Space Perspective's Spaceship Neptune with sunrise sunlight pouring through its big windows. (Image credit: Space Perspective)

Space Perspective has begun building the capsule at the Shuttle Landing Facility, at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Commercial flights of Spaceship Neptune, which can carry nine people — eight passengers and a pilot — are expected to begin in late 2024, company representatives said.

Those flights will last about six hours from liftoff to splashdown. They'll take passengers on a gentle ride to a maximum altitude of about 100,000 feet (30,000 meters), allowing a view of our thin atmosphere against the blackness of space. Spaceship Neptune won't actually reach space, and passengers won't experience weightlessness.

Space Perspective's Spaceship Neptune capsule will have a luxurious interior. (Image credit: Space Perspective)

A seat aboard the capsule currently sells for $125,000, and nearly 900 people have bought a ticket to date, Space Perspective representatives said.

The company has a competitor in the stratospheric tourism market — Arizona-based World View, which plans to offer a similar experience for $50,000 per seat. 

Those balloon jaunts will be quite different than the rocket rides provided by suborbital tourism companies Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, whose vehicles reach space briefly. Virgin Galactic currently charges $450,000 per seat for a ride on its SpaceShipTwo space plane; Blue Origin has not divulged ticket prices for its New Shepard vehicle.

Mike Wall is the author of "Out There (opens in new tab)" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).  

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Mike Wall
Mike Wall

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com (opens in new tab) and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.