Aug 192011
 

The bloon consists of a 129 m (423 ft) diameter and 96.5 m (316 ft) high sail that carries a 4.2 m (13.7 ft) diameter pod with room for four passengers and two pilots into near-space.

While space tourism efforts by the likes of Space Adventures and Virgin Galactic are relying on the tried and true technology of rockets to launch paying customers into space, Barcelona-based company zero2infinity proposes a more leisurely and eco-friendly ride into near-space using a helium balloon.

Designed to carry passengers to an altitude of 36 km (22 miles), an unmanned scale prototype bloon was flown to an altitude of 33 km (20 miles) last year and the company is already taking bookings for passenger flights that are expected to lift off sometime between 2013 and 2015.

The bloon consists of a 129 m (423 ft) diameter and 96.5 m (316 ft) high sail that carries a 4.2 m (13.7 ft) diameter pod with room for four passengers and two pilots into near-space. The pod features panoramic windows to enjoy the view and passengers can travel as a group of four or be isolated in a 2+2 seating arrangement if they prefer a bit of privacy. The only training required for passengers is a 2-hour training session on the eve of the flight to familiarize them with the bloon’s safety systems.

Launching from a dome that can be transported to passengers’ preferred point of departure, the bloon will take around an hour to ascend from the Earth’s surface to an altitude of 36 km producing no emissions or noise. From there, passengers can enjoy a meal as they take in the views, including the curvature of the Earth, the thin blue layer of the atmosphere and the stars shining in the daylight. After cruising around for a couple of hours, the bloon will begin its descent by venting helium from the sail – a process which takes around an hour.

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Very interesting and nice idea – 1 question: isn’t helium in short supply and non-renewable?  If you have an update please comment.

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