Space, the final frontier? It seems like space tourism is finally becoming a real thing. And Mercedes-Maybach wants to get in on the action. But its partnership with Space Perspective, which bills itself as a “carbon-neutral spaceflight experience company,” will take passengers up into the heavens in an appropriately luxurious style.
Long before the first manned space flights took off six decades ago, visionaries dreamed of the day when space tourism would become a reality. And that era finally arrived with companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic offering rides into and beyond the stratosphere.
Startup Space Perspective is taking a rather different approach to the heavens. It not only bills itself as “the world’s first carbon-neutral spaceflight experience company,” but promises to make that experience decidedly luxurious by partnering with Mercedes-Benz’s exotic sub-brand Maybach. If you’re ready to go up, up and away, why not include cocktails and a fancy meal along the way?
Unlike its rocketeering competitors, Space Perspective relies on a more relaxed way to rise above terra firma, using a giant, hydrogen-filled “SpaceBalloon.”
Where Virgin Galactic’s rocket-powered space plane hits three times the speed of sound during its suborbital ascent, and the SpaceX craft reaches 18,000 miles per hour once in orbit, Space Perspective’s “Spaceship Neptune” ascends at a much more leisurely 12 mph on the way to a maximum height of 100,000 feet.
Forget the space suits. Pass the champagne
That capsule is substantially bigger than its rocket-lofting competitors’ crafts, and features what the startup describes as a “customizable interior cabin” with room for “eight Explorers and a Captain.” The entire ride lasts a relaxed two hours, during which those passengers will be able to relax in cozy recliners, taking in the sights through large picture windows. There’ll be WiFi, a bar, and expect the sort of meal service you’d get on a first-class flight. There’s even a restroom.
Once reaching the stratosphere, the capsule will take another, relaxed two hours to descend back to Earth.
In other words, these trips will be more like riding a classic dirigible than a rocket ship.
A very different experience
Space Perspective was founded in 2019 by Jayne Poynter and Taber MacCallum, whom the company bills as “human spaceflight veterans.” They first met as part of the crew of Biosphere 2 and have helped develop some of the technologies now orbiting on the International Space Station.
As it prepares to begin flying paid passengers, Space Perspective looked for ways to differentiate itself from several other companies offering ultra-high altitude balloon flights. And that’s where Mercedes-Maybach come in.
For starters, those “Explorers” will get a ride to the capsule in one of the automaker’s luxury vehicles. And it’s expected to influence both the interior styling and the flight experience, as well.
“Our partnership with Space Perspective will allow space explorers to ride in style on the ground, and for us to extend the highest level of Maybach refinement and brand experience to the edge of space,” said Daniel Lescow, head of Mercedes-Maybach.
“This partnership accelerates innovation and broadens market exposure for both companies’ respective positions of strength in electric automotive and space travel,” added Space Perspective’s MacCallum.
A veritable bargain — depending upon your point of view
At a starting price of $125,000, the trip will represent about a third of the cost of a 2024 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class. And it’s roughly double what competing balloon flight company World View plans to charge.
Then again, it’s a veritable bargain compared to the $450,000 you’d have to shell out for the far briefer ride on Virgin Galactic craft, such as VSS Unity. Blue Origin’s suborbital flights have gone for as much as $28 million. If you’re looking for a longer space experience you can line up for a trip on the SpaceX Dragon which will include time onboard the International Space Station – all for a cool $55 million.
Space Perspective has run a series of uncrewed test flights. It “aims to begin commercial flights” from a “spaceport” alongside Florida’s Kennedy Space Center “at the end of 2024.” The company claims to already have more than 1,650 tickets sold.