Affordable Balloon Flight: Japan Startup Introduces Space Viewing Tour

On Tuesday, 20-02-2023, a Japanese startup announced its plan to commercially offer balloon rides for viewing the space. The company wants to offer a unique experience for people who are not billionaires, or haven’t been trained to fly rockets.

Iwaya Giken of Sapporo has developed a two-seat airtight cabin, as well as a balloon capable of reaching a height up to 25 kilometers. This allows for a clear view of outer space.

It may not reach outer space but it is higher than any commercial jet. JTB Corp. has agreed to work with the company and provide commercial trips once the project is completed. The ticket price for the first voyage will be around 24 million yen (about $180,000). Iwaya hopes that the price can eventually drop to a few million yen.

SpaceX, an American company, launched a private flight to the International Space Station that cost each passenger $55,000,000. Iwaya, however, aims to make space travel accessible.

Iwaya told reporters that his proposal was safe, affordable, and cost-effective for all. He stated his desire to make space tourism more accessible for everyone. Officials from the company claim that the Iwaya-Giken balloon will be lifted using helium. Helium can be reused in large quantities, and the flights will take place within Japanese airspace or territory to ensure safety. The first flight is scheduled to occur as soon as this year.

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Iwaya Giken in Sapporo, in the north of Japan has been working on this concept since 2012.

The balloon will launch from the Hokkaido balloon port. It can carry a pilot and one passenger. The balloon would ascend for two hours to a height of 25 km (15 miles), then stay there for an hour before descending one hour. The plastic cabin is shaped like a drum and measures 1.5 meters in diameter. It has multiple large windows that provide a panoramic view of the Earth or outer space.

The application period for the space viewing ride will end at the end of August. In October, the company will announce the names of the five first selected passengers. The company plans to schedule flights every one week, but weather conditions could alter the schedule.