A Japanese startup revealed its plan on Tuesday 20-02-2023 to offer balloon flights for viewing space commercially. The company aims to provide an affordable experience to people who may not be billionaires or trained for rocket flights.
Iwaya Giken, a Sapporo-based firm, has developed an air-tight two-seat cabin and a balloon that can soar to a height of 25 kilometers, providing an unobstructed view of outer space.
While it doesn’t reach outer space, it rises higher than a commercial jet. JTB Corp., a Japanese travel agency, has agreed to collaborate with the firm and offer commercial trips when the project is ready. A ticket for the maiden voyage is set to cost roughly 24 million yen ($180,000), but Iwaya hopes to bring down the price eventually to several million yen.
SpaceX, a U.S. company, recently launched a private charter flight carrying three wealthy individuals and an astronaut escort to the International Space Station, costing each passenger $55 million. However, Iwaya’s goal is to make space travel more accessible.
Iwaya informed the reporters that the proposal is secure, inexpensive, and safe for everyone. He expressed his intention to democratize space by making space tourism accessible to all. According to company officials, the Iwaya Giken balloon will be lifted by helium, which can be largely reused, and flights will be operated within the Japanese territory or airspace to ensure safety. The first trip is planned to take place as early as later this year.
Iwaya Giken, a firm headquartered in Sapporo in the north of Japan, has been developing this idea since 2012.
A spherical balloon that can accommodate one pilot and a single passenger is scheduled to launch from a Hokkaido-based balloon port. The balloon would rise for two hours up to an altitude of 25 kilometers (15 miles), where it would remain for an hour, before descending for one hour. The drum-shaped cabin, which is made of plastic and has a diameter of 1.5 meters (4.9 feet), features multiple, large windows, offering a view of outer space or the Earth below.
Applications for space viewing rides are now being accepted, and the application process will run until the end of August. The names of the first five selected passengers are expected to be announced by the company in October. The company is planning to schedule flights at approximately one-week intervals, although weather conditions may alter the schedule.
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