Thu, 05 Aug 2021

ORLANDO, Florida: Space Perspective, which plans to bring tourists to space inside a capsule tethered to a balloon, successfully flew its giant stratospheric balloon 20 miles over the Earth on Friday.

The balloon lifted off near Kennedy Space Center and splashed down 6 hours and 39 minutes later in the Gulf of Mexico, the company reported.

The balloon was successfully recovered.

Company co-founder Jane Poynter said in an interview before the test that Space Perspective plans to launch its first crewed flight in 2023, followed by its first flight carrying tourists in 2024.

"These test flights are designed to make sure that the particular geometry that we are using, the shape of the capsule, will fly as we plan it to and splash down as planned, so there's nothing to take us by surprise later," Poynter said.

Space Perspective's service would bring tourists to the edge of space. However, the plan to rise to 20 miles is far less than the 62 miles high designated as entering space.

Those companies preparing to offer paying passengers trips into space include Blue Origin, owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk's SpaceX and Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic.

Space Perspective would be the least expensive ticket to travel to space, at $125,000 per passenger.

Blue Origin and SpaceX are expected to charge prices into the millions of dollars for space travel, while Virgin Galactic proposes prices over $250,000.

Additionally, Space Perspective will offer leisurely six-hour flights, as opposed to being launched on rockets into space.

Friday's test flight also carried scientific experiments, including one created by the physics department at the University of Northern Florida in Jacksonville and experiments proposed by high school students that were selected through the Virginia-based non-profit Higher Orbits.

Following the successful test flight, Space Perspective received congratulations from Frank DiBello, president and CEO of Space Florida, the state's development agency for space.

"We look forward to the coming milestones for Space Perspective as they prepare to take private citizens to space," DiBello said.

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