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World View
Image: World View

This spectacular balloon spacecraft will begin passenger flights in 2024

A new company wants to float people 30km up to the edge of Earth’s atmosphere

Ed Cunningham
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Ed Cunningham
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Ever wondered just how high a balloon can go? Well, the answer, it turns out, is pretty damn high. In fact, one company wants to use balloons to take people all the way to the brink of space.

That firm is called World View, and it intends to float people 30,000 metres up to edge of the Earth’s atmosphere. Now, it’d be pretty understandable if you had some safety concerns about using balloons – which already look like a pretty precarious form of travel – for space tourism. But World View insists that its balloons aren’t just safe but actually luxurious.

So how will it all work? Well, a zero-pressure stratospheric balloon (in normal people speak, this means a balloon which is open at the bottom) will be floated using helium and thereby lift a capsule into space. World View’s pods will take off from purpose-built ‘spaceports’ around the world, and journeys will take between six and 12 hours.

Unlike normal hot-air balloons, the capsules will not be open-top (duh – there ain’t much oxygen that far up). They’ll be enclosed pods, each one maintaining a pressurised, climate-controlled environment and designed to be steady and resistant to turbulence. These capsules have actually already been unveiled, with a prototype having been on display at this year’s SXSW convention in Austin, Texas. Here are some CG renders of the project:

World View
Image: World View
World View
Image: World View
World View
Image: World View

World View’s trips are designed to be a bit more relaxing and luxurious than your typical jet-fuelled space adventure. And with only a pilot and a concierge for company (and just seven other passengers), it’ll feel like a pretty exclusive experience. The luxury ticket has a fittingly luxurious price tag: $50,000 (£38,000) per seat, to be exact.

Along with this similarly expensive, similarly spectacular space balloon, it looks increasingly likely that we really are on the brink of fully-fledged space tourism. World View’s balloons are set to have their first manned test flights in 2023 before commercial service begins in 2024. If the trip sounds like your kind of thing, the company is already taking bookings. Find out more here.

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