Hawaii is among the planned launch locations

A new human spaceflight startup has revealed plans to launch suborbital space tours for the public in less than five years. The Space Perspective, billed as “the off-world travel company,” held a press event on June 18 outlining a space-balloon flight that would loft passengers to about 100,000 feet aboard a pressurized capsule. Though the anticipated altitude is short of the commonly recognized boundary of space, the flight would be high enough to view the curvature of Earth and the blackness of space.

An artist rendering shows Spaceship Neptune rising off the coast of Florida where the company’s first flight center operates at Kennedy Space Center. Credit: Space Perspective

One of the company’s goals is to shift human perspectives on Earth and the cosmos through “the overview effect”—a phenomenon reported by astronauts who experience a shift in consciousness after seeing the Earth from space.

“We’re committed to fundamentally changing the way people have access to space, both to perform much-needed research to benefit life on Earth and to affect how we view and connect with our planet,” Space Perspective Co-founder Jane Poynter said in a statement.

On a tour, eight passengers and a pilot would would be carried skyward by a massive space balloon roughly the size of a football stadium. The capsule, called Spaceship Neptune (a nod to the far-away planet’s mostly hydrogen and helium atmosphere), would show passengers an incredible views of Earth and space during the roughly six-hour flight.

The company has already established an operations center at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and plans to launch from the old Space Shuttle runway. Additional launches are planned from Cecil Spaceport in Florida, Hawaii and Alaska, and other locations around the world, according to the company’s website.

Spaceship Neptune has broad windows, allowing passengers to take pictures of Earth and space. Credits: Space Perspective

In addition to tours, Space Perspective also plans to offer research opportunities for scientists, students and educators. At 19 miles off the ground, atmospheric pressure is almost zero, providing a near-vacuum environment to do experiments related to the atmosphere, solar physics and other natural science phenomena. Space Perspective’s initial test flights are planned during the first quarter of next year with crewed flights beginning in 2023. The first commercial flights are expected by 2024.

Space Perspective’s founders, Jane Poynter and Taber MacCallum, were crew members in Biosphere 2 during the early 1990s. In 2013, they founded World View, a company like Space Perspective using high-altitude balloons. Though tours never got off the ground, scientific experiments did. Poynter and MacCallum are now revisiting their original vision. Their staff have led, designed and/or operated all the human suborbital balloon flights staged in the last five decades, according to the company’s website.