On Designing A Luxurious Balloon Ride Into Space

Forget rockets and high Gs. One company wants to take you to space in leisure and style.

Virgin Galactic is capturing the public’s imagination with an exhilarating, 2,500 mph rocket ride into space. But NASA contractor Paragon--with their special expertise in pressurized capsules--has a different vision. For $75,000, they’d like to offer a more scenic experience called World View: A serene, half-day balloon ride 100,000 feet into the stratosphere.

To envision this new form of space travel, Paragon tapped designers at Priestmangoode--a company known for crafting high end interiors (and even some exteriors) for airlines, cruise ships, hotels, and rail.

“World View isn’t a quick, ‘Look out the window! Experience weightlessness! And you're down!’ trip,” explains Priestmangoode Director Nigel Goode. “It might launch at dusk so you see the sun rising, the curvature of Earth, and Earth below. Then you could look up and see the blackness of space and stars and everything else.”

So what does that mode of transport look like? In retrospect, as we can see a video and high-resolution renders here, it’s obvious. But the design studio had to approach the project with a rare, blank slate. Think about it: Most of us have preconceived notions of what we expect from a car, bike, or even a plane. But what does a space balloon look like other than, maybe, a recent Red Bull commercial?

“When you think of spacecrafts, you think of something that’s directional--pointy at one end, Star Warsy,” Goode explains. “But it’s just not appropriate for this means of travel.”

Instead, they focused on the name--”World View”--agreeing that the trip was really all about the windows. So the studio designed massive, multi-panel portholes that could withstand high pressure but also provide a reasonable view. From the outside, these windows are meant to catch a passenger's eye and create excitement for the experience to come. Plus their roundness plays into every element of the capsule’s design, in which careful curves were added to what otherwise might be a cargo-like pressurized box. The result is a vehicle without any leading lines, one that appears to be equally comfortable traveling in X, Y, or Z dimensions. And rather than looking quick or nimble, World View appears substantive. Solid.

“We wanted it to appear incredibly robust and safe, and slightly over-engineered so things do look quite beefy and sturdy,” Goode says. “[People should know] it’s gonna do the job.”

As for what World View will feel like on the inside for its eight riders (six passengers, two crew), that part of the experience hasn’t actually been designed yet. Goode admits that proper ergonomics will be a tight fit--though riders will be able to stand, he promises--and due to weight constraints, the cabin won’t be “lavish.” But you can hear it in Goode’s cadence--getting faster as he talks--that he’s not despondent at the project constraints, but eager for the challenge to redefine space travel.

“We’re just getting started creating the right aesthetic for this. There are a lot of cues that can be taken from jets and aircraft, but it will have its own aesthetic, with an interior and finish that you’d expect for space travel,” Goode says. “We’re chomping at the bit to get to the next steps.”

If all goes well, World View will launch in 2016.

Learn more here.

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5 Comments

  • erictan

    Seventy-five thousand dollars? For that money, I can have a nice two-week vacation in some tropical land with my wife and kids...

  • Bryan Day

    They seem to be forgetting the whole problem of, i dont know, where in the hell are they going to get the insane amount of helium to lift several people and their tin can into the upper atmosphere?! This project is dead until they can figure this out. Helium is kind of expensive in those quantities...