ORLANDO, Fla., June 23 (UPI) -- A new space tourism company began to sell tickets Wednesday for six-hour balloon rides to the stratosphere starting in 2024. The price of a seat: $125,000.
The company, Florida-based Space Perspective, plans up to 25 flights in the first year into what is the second major layer of the Earth's atmosphere and extends to about 31 miles, or more than 163,000 feet, above the planet's surface.
Space Perspective becomes only the second one to offer space tourism tickets, following plans by Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic to offer suborbital flights. Those plans have not yet been realized.
"The demand for space tourism is so huge that, honestly, we welcome more players in the industry and we believe in that adage that a rising tide lifts all boats," Space Perspective co-founder Jane Poynter said in an interview.
The company began to testing a capsule under a giant balloon Friday with a successful 20-mile-high flight from Florida that landed in the Gulf of Mexico. Operations are to be based at Kennedy Space Center initially, Poynter said.
Space Perspective also released a photo from Friday's test flight that shows the curvature of the Earth, a blue layer of atmosphere and the blackness of space. Such views will allow space tourists to see about 450 miles, the company said.
Up to eight passengers will ride in a pressurized capsule with an experienced pilot, a bar and a bathroom. The trip will end with a splashdown.
Branson's firm initially signed up passengers for $250,000 a seat, but halted sales after a test-flight crashed in 2014. As testing continues, seats are being sold for research and training flights, but not for space tourism.