Spaceship Neptune, a balloon and pressurised capsule that can quietly climb 100,000ft up into the atmosphere, could be the next stage in space tourism. Sam Ballard reports

PriestmanGoode, a design agency based in London and China, has revealed a vision for a new kind of space tourism craft called Spaceship Neptune, which would to take everyday cosmonauts to the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere.

The spaceship, a “high-performance balloon and pressurised capsule”, is being built by US-based Space Perspective and will offer passengers a view of our planet from 100,000ft in the air.

Nigel Goode, designer and co-founder of PriestmanGoode, says: “We’ve worked in close partnership with the team behind Space Perspective for many years now. Neptune is a great project to work on, it’s the culmination of a long-term collaboration that has resulted in the only spaceship that is designed with the human experience at its core and will pave the way for the future of commercial space travel.”

Spaceship Neptune will be flown by a pilot with up to eight passengers, called Explorers, on board. The entire experience will take roughly six hours – a two-hour ascent above 99 per cent of the Earth’s atmosphere, a two-hour flight at 100,000ft above ground and then a two-hour descent. The Spaceship Neptune will land in the sea where a ship will retrieve the passengers, capsule and balloon.

Jane Poynter, founder and co-CEO of Space Perspective, says: “The design of the capsule is a critical component of providing our explorers the inspirational experience that astronauts describe of seeing our Earth in space. We are thrilled to be working with Nigel and his talented team at PriestmanGoode.”Space Perspective Project NeptuneTaber MacCallum, founder and co-CEO of Space Perspective, adds: “Space Perspective is developing a uniquely accessible space travel experience. The team at PriestmanGoode worked with us to create that experience with Spaceship Neptune, giving it an off-world yet classic design, while meeting a wide range of human factors, engineering, manufacturing and operating requirements.”

The first un-crewed test flight is due to take off in early 2021 from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.Space Perspective Spaceship NeptuneSpace Perspective’s Spaceship Neptune is not the only experience aiming to take tourists to the edge of space within the next few years. Virgin Galactic, backed by British billionaire Sir Richard Branson, has revealed its Gateway to Space Lounge in New Mexico.

The facility, which has been designed by Foster + Partners, “pays homage to the past in its respect for the ancient surrounding landscape while powerfully embracing the future through energy efficiency and sustainability,” says Virgin Galactic.

It has also been created to “enable Virgin Galactic to create an unparalleled experience as its customers prepare for journeys of a lifetime before graduating as astronauts”. The first Virgin Galactic flights with paying passengers onboard were going to go ahead this summer but these have now been delayed.

However, Space Tourism was a key trend that Globetrender identified for luxury travel in the new decade, in its Future of Luxury Forecast: 2020-2025. (UBS predicts that by 2030, it will be a US$3 billion industry funded by the super-rich.) Interestingly, balloon trips could quietly prove the most viable option for taking the public off-Earth.

Globetrender wrote in its report: “The ‘stratospheric economy’ is also being explored by the Paragon Space Development Corporation, which has been working with design agency PriestmanGoode to develop the World View Experience, an eight-passenger capsule that would spend up to six hours floating on the edge of space while hanging from a balloon.”

Similar balloon trips will be organised by Zero 2 Infinity, which envisions taking people on a 4.5-hour journey, 22 miles up, in a zero-emission helium balloon called Bloon at some point in the next few years.

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Globetrender Future of Luxury Travel Forecast 2020-2025

Globetrender Gen Z Horizons 2020 report