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US space balloon pioneer seeks Middle East partners

  • Space Perspective looking for long-term, strategic relationships
  • Plans to launch commercial balloon flights to edge of outer space
  • Middle East locations could also be used for space launches

A company planning to launch commercial balloon flights to the edge of outer space in late 2024 is seeking partners in the Middle East.

Space Perspective, which is headquartered at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, is looking to build “strong, longer-term, strategic partnerships” with regional tech firms and investors, according to Jane Poynter, founder and co-CEO.

“From governments and marquee brands to ticket sales partners for our US-based launches and building out a regional launch presence, we’re looking for partners to help us achieve our mission of sharing this life-changing experience across the globe,” Poynter told AGBI.

She added that locations in the Middle East could also be considered for space launches as the company builds its operations around the world. 

“The energy and momentum in the region towards space is incredible and offers boundless possibilities for Space Perspective,” added Poynter, who is holding meetings in Saudi Arabia this week and is a speaker at the annual Leap technology conference in Riyadh.

Space Perspective is the world’s first luxury spaceflight experience and plans to take people 100,000 feet (nearly 19 miles) into space in Spaceship Neptune. The vessel is made up of a pressurised capsule propelled by a high-performance space balloon the size of a football stadium that is filled with hydrogen. 

With tickets costing $125,000 each, the capsule will take eight explorers and a pilot on a six-hour flight.

Spaceship Neptune will ascend for two hours at 12mph, float at its apogee for two hours and then descend gently before splashdown in the ocean where a ship awaits.

Explorers will be able to see 450 miles in all directions through the 360-degree panoramic windows. About 1,100 tickets have already been sold, with strong interest from the Middle East.

The company wants to reach a supply-constrained global market for commercial space travel that analysts recently estimated could reach over $8 billion by 2030. 

“We offer people from the Middle East the opportunity to be among some of the first to take this life-changing, accessible, journey to space,” Poynter said.

“They can do all this without crushing G-forces or the need for rigorous training – all with amenities you’d associate with a first class flight.

“Our ground launch capabilities along with MS Voyager, the first in our planned fleet of marine spaceports, allows us to reach and launch from markets beyond the US, including the Middle East.

“As we build deeper connections in the region we are looking for the right partners to generate interest in ticket sales for our upcoming launches in the US, as well as strong, longer-term, strategic partnerships.”

She added: “The Middle East has such strong momentum towards becoming a player in the space economy and has a population that’s fascinated by commercial space flight, so we don’t want to leave anything off the table at this point.”

The UAE has emerged as one of the leading space powers in west Asia and in 2021 became the fifth nation – after the US, Russia, China and India – to reach Mars, and only the second after India to succeed on the first attempt. 

Saudi Arabia has recently stepped up its ambitions in space and its Space Commission announced an accelerator programme to drive the development of the sector in December, while Riyadh plans to send the first Saudi woman into space later this year.

Space Perspective said it plans to integrate its launches into marquee global events, and conversations are active with several potential destinations to offer explorers a view of some of the world’s most iconic geography including the Nile Delta in Egypt.

In 2021, Hub71, Abu Dhabi’s global tech ecosystem, announced its first SpaceTech startup, SpaceChain, following the success of the Emirates Mars Mission.

“You can’t build a whole new way to space, like Space Perspective is, without input and support from a wide range of experts, scientists and tech hubs,” Poynter said.

“We’re always interested in exploring new partnerships that can spark space innovation in any part of the world.”

She added that the GCC’s emergence in the global hydrogen market could also play its part in Space Perspective’s plans to expand around the world.

While the company will be sourcing hydrogen locally for its first launches on Florida’s “Space Coast”, she said: “As we unfold our global expansion plans, finding the right local partners to provide our lift gas in a way that’s safe, sustainable, and environmentally friendly will be key.

“As we get closer to operations in any region those discussions will happen as part of planning.”

Space Perspective
Eight explorers at a time will be able to see about 450 miles in all directions through the almost 360-degree panoramic windows. Picture: Space Perspective

Inside the Space Perspective experience

The space balloon is 18 million cubic feet in volume when fully expanded, larger than an average football stadium. 

Spaceship Neptune stands over 700 feet tall, just shy of the height of the Eiffel Tower.

Instead of accelerating to space with high-energy rockets that fight against gravity, Spaceship Neptune uses gravity through buoyancy. The gas inside the space balloon is lighter than the surrounding air so it lifts the balloon and capsule up to come to equilibrium above 99 percent of the Earth’s atmosphere where it floats, like an ice cube floating on water. 

To descend, the spaceship releases a tiny amount of gas that turns into water, so the vehicle is technically near-zero emissions.

The entire spaceship is reused many times except the material the space balloon is made of. 

Hydrogen is demonstrated to be a safe gas for use in balloons, with thousands of human-crewed balloons having been flown using the gas since the dawn of flight in the 1700s.

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