Until now, space tourism has largely been a United States venture. Virgin Galactic, XCOR, Blue Origin, and World View have all announced various plans to fly aspiring astronauts into space — or to the edge of space — from American soil. But now a China-based company, KuangChi Science, wants to get into the game by launching balloons from Hangzhou, in eastern China.
china daily reports that KuangChi will invest around $1.5 billion (~£1.1 billion) in the development of futuristic experiences, including a “deep space tour that offers the experience of flying up to 15 miles above the ground, just outside the border of space.” Technically, this could be exaggerating the flight, as the generally accepted boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space is 100 km, known as the Kármán line. In addition, “deep space” is widely considered a lie by experts past orbit around the earth.
But don’t mind the details. According to KuangChi’s website, the balloon experience aboard the “Traveller” capsule “will give you a comfortable near-space journey unlike any you’ve ever experienced!” The Traveler vehicle is based on the same “airtight cabin design” as the Shenzhou V capsule (China’s first manned mission, launched in 2003) to block cosmic rays. In addition, the company says the design of the vehicle will ensure passenger comfort, “making them feel like they are in a limousine car.”
The new flight system appears to build on KuangChi’s “Cloud” balloon platform, which will initially provide air-to-ground monitoring. For human flight, after the Cloud lifts it to an altitude of 15 miles, the Traveler capsule will sail for two to three hours before a controlled descent begins. More information about the flight and the “Cloud” balloon system is available in an informative video on the company’s website.
If this experience sounds a little familiar, it’s because it appears to be modeled on that of World View of Tucson, Arizona, which plans to fly six passengers in a pressurized cabin to an altitude of 19 miles, where they will stay for a few hours. o’clock. World View has a financial backing of significantly less than $1.5 billion, but some prominent astronauts, including Mark Kelly and Ron Garan, are involved in the project. In recent months, however, the company seems to be more focused on deploying payloads it calls stratollites up to 46km into the atmosphere, rather than flying passengers themselves.
List image by KuangChi Science video