NASA contractor Paragon Space Development Corporation has recently unveiled plans to start conducting suborbital spaceflights for paying passengers. As opposed to Virgin Galactic, which will use an aircraft combo to achieve this objective, Paragon will be using high-tech, high-altitude balloons.
Sir Richard Bronson's company will charge $250,000 (€187,000) for a ride on the SpaceShipTwo, which will allow passengers to experience up to 4 minutes of microgravity. But Paragon proposes an alternative, more scenic experience, called the World View.
For $75,000 (€56,000), people will be able to purchase a seat on one of the company's luxurious space balloons, which were created together with designers at Priestmangoode. For this project, engineers at Paragon put their extensive special expertise in pressurized capsules to good use.
A ride on such a space balloon will represent a prolonged experience. Since these aircraft rely on hot air to operate, they will not be limited in range, altitude, or autonomy by the stringent requirements of parabolic flights (such as the ones SpaceShipTwo will take).
Though the first flight of the new space balloon is scheduled for some time in 2016, Paragon officials have already decided that the World View experience will last about half a day, and that the balloon will soar to altitudes up to 30,500 meters (100,000 feet) into the stratosphere.
“World View isn’t a quick, ‘Look out the window! Experience weightlessness! And you're down!’ trip. It might launch at dusk so you see the Sun rising, the curvature of Earth, and Earth below. Then you could look up and see the blackness of space and stars and everything else,” says Nigel Goode.
He is the director of Priestmangoode, a company that is known for its work in designing luxurious, high-end interiors for airplanes, hotels, cruise ships, and even trains. They beauty of their designs is why Paragon decided to tap them for designing the interior of their space balloons, Fastcodesign reports.
“We’re just getting started creating the right aesthetic for this. There are a lot of cues that can be taken from jets and aircraft, but it will have its own aesthetic, with an interior and finish that you’d expect for space travel. We’re chomping at the bit to get to the next steps,” Goode concludes.