1. Balloon capsule
Iwaya Giken has been working on its space tourism project since 2012 but only recently has revealed its outcomes to the public, announcing a debut trip into the stratosphere later this year. The Japanese startup developed an airtight two-seat cabin and a balloon capable of rising up to an altitude of 25 kilometres, where the curve of the Earth can be clearly viewed. “It’s safe, economical and gentle for people,” Iwaya Giken’s CEO told reporters.
The idea is to make space tourism for everyone.Keisuke Iwaya, CEO of Iwaya Giken
While passengers won’t experience outer space, they’ll be higher than a jet plane flies and have an unobstructed view of the Earth’s curve. The balloon only goes up to roughly the middle of the stratosphere.
2. Take off
The balloon capsule plastic cabin can carry a pilot and a passenger, and it measures 1.5 meters in diameter. The space vehicle is completed with several large windows which provide spectacular views. Attached to this capsule is a helium balloon, which can largely reuse its fuel making it more sustainable, and capable of rising up 25km into the stratosphere over a two-hour-long ascent. After an hour spent floating around, the capsule will make a one-hour descent back to the balloon port in Hokkaido.
3. ”Democratise space”
Giken said he wanted to “democratise space” yet its prices may still be a little out of reach for the ordinary people. Initially, a flight would cost about 24 million yen (€167,000), but Iwaya said he aims to eventually bring it down to several million yen — or tens of thousands of euros. In order to publicize this new travel segment, Iwaya Giken partnered with major Japanese travel agency JTB Corp, which announced plans to collaborate on the project when the startup is ready for a commercial trip.
The first five passengers selected will be announced in October, according to company representatives, and flights will be approximately a week apart, depending on weather conditions.