A French Startup Will Serve You Dinner in the Stratosphere for $132,000

A stratospheric balloon
Credit: Zephalto

A stratospheric balloon

Space tourism is still in its infancy, but that hasn't stopped a mountain of companies from gearing up for a future of civilians among the stars. Some are promising extended stays, but others just want to give you a glimpse of space. French startup Zephalto is the latter, aiming to take passengers to the edge of space in a balloon for a fancy meal. Despite the lack of rocketry, the experience won't come cheap—the company plans to charge €120,000 ($132,000) per person.

Even with decades of advancement, rockets are still complex, expensive, and dangerous. Passengers expecting to head into space on a giant metal tube filled with highly flammable fuel must undergo training and medical checks to ensure safety. Not so with Zephalto's balloon approach. Zephalto founder and aerospace engineer Vincent Farret d’Astiès tells Bloomberg that his firm aims for 60 flights per year. Anyone healthy enough to fly on an airliner can board a Zephalto balloon.

The experience aboard the company's luxury balloon (design still to be revealed) won't be anything like your typical commercial flight, though. For one, the high-altitude balloon will rise into the stratosphere, 15.5 miles (25 kilometers) high over the course of six hours. That's three times higher than a commercial airliner. It will stay at its maximum altitude for 90 minutes, allowing passengers to enjoy fine food, wine, and a stunning view. At that altitude, passengers can see the curvature of the Earth alongside the inky blackness of space. The capsule will have 20 square meters of interior room, accommodating six passengers and two pilots.

High-altitude test balloon on the ground
A Zephalto balloon test from 2020. Credit: Zephalto

Is that worth a six-figure ticket? For some, part of the appeal of space tourism is the mission-oriented feel. They want to strap into a rocket and go boldly where few have gone before. Zephalto aims to make the experience more of a day trip to the edge of space.

Zephalto hopes to begin flights in 2025, and it shares a critical feature with other space tourism firms: You can book a flight before the company even has all its ducks in a row. Head over to the Zephalto website, and you can put down a €10,000 deposit to lock down a seat, with the remaining €110,000 to be paid when your turn comes.

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