Sturdy to offer balloon rides from Alaska to the edge of space

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – A company plans to use an advanced balloon to fly customers from the Earth’s surface in Alaska to the highest regions of the planet’s atmosphere.

Florida-based startup company Space Perspective plans to use the Pacific Spaceport Complex in Kodiak as one of the launch sites for the vehicle, called the spaceship Neptune, The Anchorage Daily News reported Sunday.

The balloon flights will be crewed by a flight crew that will carry eight passengers in a pressurized capsule suspended under a hydrogen balloon the size of a football stadium.

Each passenger could pay an estimated $ 125,000 for a six-hour trip.

Mark Lester, CEO of Alaska Aerospace Corp., said the high-altitude attractions will be available at Kodiak in a few years and will support Alaskan tourism.

“You will have people from all over the world who want to come to Alaska to see the Northern Lights from the edge of space,” said Lester.

Alaska Aerospace and Space Perspective will test and refine spaceport operations and secure space permits from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Space Perspective plans to conduct an unmanned test flight next year from the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Passengers begin with a two-hour climb to approximately 19 miles (31 kilometers) above the Earth. They can then post on social media about the experience or send data.

“Neptune then makes a two-hour descent under the balloon and splashes down where a ship picks up passengers,” said Alaska Aerospace along with the capsule and balloon.

Capsule recovery would take place in the waters around Kodiak Island and the Aleutian Island chain depending on the seasonal wind patterns.

The balloon design is derived from technology NASA has used for decades to fly large research telescopes, Space Perspective said.

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