Space Perspective's Titusville Seely SpaceBalloon ™ Factory Opened
To reach Mount Everest's 29,035-foot snow-capped summit in the Himalayas, hardy travelers should expect to invest long travel times and up to $200,000 on a daring expedition that's bound to be "very uncomfortable," warned Florida Rep. Thad Altman.
By comparison, Altman labeled Space Perspective's future $125,000 rides aboard balloons soaring 100,000 feet in elevation — with roomy pressurized passenger capsules offering food, beverages and Wi-Fi — "a steal."
Those enormous polyethylene balloons are being manufactured in Titusville atop a parallel pair of 600-foot-long white metal tables. Tuesday morning, Altman spoke during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Space Perspective's 49,000-square-foot balloon manufacturing facility at Space Coast Regional Airport.
"We are opening space to unprecedented numbers of people," Space Perspective founder and co-CEO Jane Poynter told the crowd of more than 120 attendees, standing on an elevated platform inside the 700-foot-long structure.
"Through our carbon-neutral Spaceship Neptune that carries eight explorers and a captain on a six-hour gentle and astounding journey to space. And we're doing it from right here on Florida's Space Coast," Poynter said.
Founded in 2019, Space Perspective's infrastructure is now in place to start offering suborbital flights around the end of 2024, Poynter previously told FLORIDA TODAY.
The Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast previously announced Space Perspective will invest more than $38 million in construction and equipment in Brevard County, spurring creation of about 240 full-time jobs by the end of 2026 with average annual wages of $80,000.
Poynter told the crowd her company now employs almost 150 workers at the Titusville airport, a 30,000-square-foot capsule composite-manufacturing facility in Melbourne, and other locations.
"Our balloon will be going up to a little over 100,000 feet. It will weigh approximately 6,000 pounds when it's completed. The length of our balloon manufactured is about 550 feet long. And it will take about five weeks to build some of the first ones," said Mitzi Giles, factory director.
"Eventually, we'll be able to cut down that manufacturing time, refining our processes and our equipment," Giles said.
The Titusville plant is the world's first facility designed to routinely build human-flight space balloons, said Taber MacCallum, founder and co-CEO.
Space Perspective tickets cost $125,000 with a $1,000 refundable deposit. Poynter previously said her space tourism startup has booked about 1,650 reservations, representing more than $206 million in potential ticket sales. The company should offer 50 to 75 missions during its initial year before ramping up operations and expanding to other sites.
"Space tourism is no longer a dream. And it is well on its way to being an established economic sector in the global space economy," Space Florida President and CEO Frank DiBello told Tuesday's audience.
"This year, some 20 different companies are forecast to generate between $800 million to $1 billion in revenue. And this sector is projected to grow to between $13 and $15 billion by the end of the decade," DiBello said.
Titusville Mayor Dan Diesel, a longtime Titusville High football coach, joked that he imagined artificial turf installed inside the 700-foot-long factory for use as an indoor sports facility.
Diesel labeled the evolution of the space industry in Titusville "surreal."
"When I came here in 1965 with my dad with the Gemini program, and I watched (my) first rocket go up as a 7-year-old kid, I sure as heck never thought we'd have balloons launching from this airport," Diesel said.