France-based startup Zephalto has partnered with Centre national d’études spatiales (CNES), the French space agency, in a plan to begin offering elegant high-altitude stratospheric balloon flights. Lofted by a huge balloon filled with hydrogen or helium, Zephalto’s pressurized capsule will ascend high into Earth’s atmosphere as high as 15.5 miles (25 kilometers) to offer passengers a unique view of the world below.
Flights are scheduled to begin by 2025, with the company’s website already taking reservations for a $11,000 (€120,000) deposit, according to a Bloomberg report. Zephalto’s balloon will hold six passengers and two pilots, and will lift off from the French spaceport.
The flight itself will take a total of six hours, consisting of an hour and a half ascent, three hours for wining, dining and sightseeing, and another hour and a half for your descent back to Earth. “We choose 25 kilometers high because it’s the altitude where you are in the darkness of space, with 98% of the atmosphere below you, so you can enjoy the curvature of the Earth in the blue line. You’re in the darkness of space, but without the zero gravity experience,” said aerospace engineer and Zephalto founder Vincent Farret d’Astiès.
So far, the company has flown three piloted test flights of its stratospheric balloon, though none yet as high as the altitude it will take regular passengers. The company must first gain EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) certification as a commercial airliner. Once in operation, Zephalto is aiming for up to 60 flights a year.
(Source and image: Zephalto)