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July 22, 2020 - Trials are soon to begin of Spaceship Neptune, a high-flying balloon designed to carry eight passengers to the edge of space.
In early 2021, Florida-based Space Perspective intends to start testing its passenger balloon, designed to reach the edge of space.
Eight civilians and a pilot will be able to comfortably travel up 100,000 feet (19 miles/30km) to the stratosphere in a reusable pressurised capsule suspended from a gigantic hydrogen-filled balloon called Spacecraft Neptune – so named because planet Neptune's atmosphere is predominantly hydrogen (and helium, with some methane).
The company operates out of leased grounds at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, but has near-term ambitions to expand to Alaska and Hawaii, and then possibly to other countries around the world.
Flight tickets will cost in the region of $125,000 per person, about half the cost of other sub-orbital flights, although the latter fly twice as high and briefly let passengers experience weightlessness. Still, Neptune's ride ascends at a sedate 20km/h and gives passengers a full two hours to observe 360° views of Earth rotating beneath them and the cosmos above.
The overall ride will last six hours – two hours to ascend, two hours to float along the stratosphere and two hours to descend into the Atlantic Ocean, where a recovery ship will be waiting.
The capsule comes complete with luxury seating, refreshments, a restroom and wi-fi (allowing passengers can hook up to social media as they fly). The company also intends to offer its services for weddings, corporate events and scientific excursions.
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