Commercial space travel is slated to offer aspiring astronauts a taste of the stratosphere.
Earlier this year, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo became the first commercial vehicle since the Concorde to break the speed of sound, and also marked the company’s final phase of vehicle testing prior to commercial service from Spaceport America in New Mexico.
Now another viable spacecraft design has been unveiled by Priestmangoode, the leading global travel and transport design consultancy. In collaboration with Jane Poynter and Taber MacCallum, who founded the Paragon Space Development Corporation, the firm has developed the World View project – a concept capsule that will take its “passengers to the edge of space where they will be able to observe the curvature of the Earth.”
“This is a dream project to work on, said Nigel Goode, director of Priestmangoode. “It’s incredibly exciting to be part of this nascent industry, defining the experience of premium space travel."
“Inspired by our work designing luxury aircraft interiors, our design vision focuses on enhancing comfort onboard the capsule to create a truly transformative human experience."
World View will be able to carry eight people (six passengers, two crew members) to heights of over 30 kilometres in a high altitude helium balloon spanning 40 million cubic feet.
“The ascent will take between one and a half to two hours,” Goode said. “The capsule will then spend between two and six hours at the intended altitude of 30 kilometres, before returning to Earth over the course of 20 to 40 minutes.”
The voyage time and safety requirements significantly directed the design of the vessel according to Goode.
“The idea of space travel naturally brings to mind traditional rocket ships and the aerodynamic forms they command," he said. "However, the World View experience is not about speed, it’s about enjoying a once in a lifetime journey.”
The capsule is lightweight with a permanently deployed parawing for steering and predetermined landing sites, a strategy currently used in the military. The capsule is also fully pressurised and will provide a breathable atmosphere and a thermal control system designed to combat the effects of travelling into space.
A helium balloon is then connected to the capsule via suspension cables, with the balloon envelope made from high performance polyethylene film with multiple layers of caps added to the top dome to maintain structural integrity during flight.
Priestmangoode, which is behind an array of transport interiors from aircrafts, cruise ships and railways, leaned on its expertise in designing interiors to create a luxurious environment for the space experience. World View will house luxury interiors including a refreshment bar and lavatory and is designed for “premium space travel” for which passengers can wear normal clothing and will require no lengthy training.
The capsule will feature large panoramic windows constructed from an array of high pressure units. According to Goode, maximising the view was paramount. The company wanted to ensure that as “passengers rose up to space, they would be able to observe the sunrise, the curvature of the Earth, the thin blue atmosphere and the blackness of space.”
For undisrupted viewing, the capsule features a “cupola viewing dome” and is topped with science capsule that can record scientific data readings.
Along with tourism, World View will fuel research and educational pursuits and will also offer internet technology on board so passengers can share their information and travel experience instantaneously on social media.
Earlier this year, Priestmangoode visualised another project for the Paragon Space Development Corporation called Inspiration Mars. This would allows a two-person crew to travel to Mars and back in 501 days.
In terms of world first's, Virgin Galactic remains the leading contender with SpaceShipTwo. The rocket-like design is made from carbon composite, a strong and light material which is fuel efficient. According to Virgin Galactic's website, the company has currently accepted more than $70 million in deposits from approximately 580 individuals with 2014 set to begin commercial air travel globally.
As expected, space travel isn't for the budget conscious traveller.
"Rule number one of (space) projects is, it will take longer and cost more than you planned…doubly so for advanced aerospace vehicle projects," Henry Vanderbilt, head of the Space Access Society, told Space.com.
Virgin's voyage has a $250,000 price tag while World View has an introductory ticket of $75,000 per passenger.