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Stratoflight and Expleo join forces to take passengers into near space by balloon
Friday, 16 September 2022

Stratoflight and Expleo will unveil a new sustainable transport project for space travel at the 73rd International Astronautical Congress (IAC). Passenger flights by balloon to the stratosphere at an altitude of 35km

- Unique ogive-shaped capsule includes extravehicular viewing platform allows passengers to step out into space

- Green and economical solution uses recycled/recyclable materials, reusable capsule, and no fuel for zero emissions

Tying closely to the event theme of “Space for @ll”, Stratoflight is a new sustainable mode of transport that will allow passengers to reach the stratosphere, 35km above ground level, in a unique capsule complete with an “external” viewing platform. The French-based company has partnered with Expleo, an engineering, technology and consulting provider with deep expertise in the space industry, for the development of this project.

For its ascent, the spacecraft uses tried-and-tested zero-pressure balloon technology, filled with green hydrogen, like that used for many years by space agencies such as CNES and NASA for scientific flights. To ensure a zero-carbon footprint, hydrogen will be produced locally at the take-off site via renewable energy, including solar and wind.

The vehicle, which measures 8m in length, 4m wide and 3m high, can accommodate up to six people, including two pilots.

Reservations for passengers will open in early 2023, with the first flight scheduled for 2025.

Expleo is designing the flight capsule for Stratoflight, which includes an extra-vehicular viewing platform, or “balcony”. Passengers wearing a pressurised suit will be able to step out into space to view the Earth from the stratosphere, at an altitude where the planet's curvature will be visible and a horizon spanning from Barcelona to Amsterdam is visible, approximately 1239km.

Engineers at Expleo's innovation laboratory have had to consider numerous parameters to ensure a safe and immersive experience for passengers in a capsule with large glass areas in its structure, including structural sizing, interior and exterior panels, design of onboard electronics, safety, and aerodynamics.

The cockpit, made of bio-sourced, recycled or recyclable materials, will be able to fly at speeds of up to 140 km/h for the return to land, thanks to its aerodynamic shape with both straight and curved lines. Descent to land is made under a piloted paraglider.

The programme is being developed with several European partners, including Swing for the parachutes and Spartan Space for the pressure suit.

Arnaud Longobardi, airline pilot and co-founder of Stratoflight, commented: “Stratoflight provides passengers with multiple exceptional experiences: the ascent to space that feels like a hot-air balloon flight, stepping out on to the viewing balcony, moving into space like an astronaut, and the landing, similar to free flight in a paraglider; all this in a capsule similar to a spacecraft. For me, this mission is not only the realisation of my dreams as a pilot but also a technological innovation respectful of the planet.”

“Making space accessible to all, while respecting the environment, is at the heart of what we believe in at Expleo. Our teams of space engineers have designed this capsule with this dual objective in mind. And we intend to go further. We are currently investigating the possibility of making the capsule out of new green composite materials based on bamboo, which would further reduce its carbon footprint. We are proud of our work with Stratoflight and of our contribution to this innovation,” explains Frédérique Rebout, Head of Space, Expleo.

Stratoflight will also offer, each year, several flights to people involved in the areas of preservation of Earth, science and space, in the world of education, and the charity sector.

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