Japanese startup enters the high altitude balloon space tourism business

A Japanese startup, Iwaya Giken, announced yesterday that it is building a two-person capsule that will carry two persons, a pilot and passenger, on high-altitude stratospheric tourist balloon flights for about $180K per ticket.

The company, Iwaya Giken, based in Sapporo in northern Japan, has been working on the project since 2012 and says it has developed an airtight two-seat cabin and a balloon capable of rising up to an altitude of 25 kilometers (15 miles), where the curve of the Earth can be clearly viewed. While passengers won’t be in outer space — the balloon only goes up to roughly the middle of the stratosphere — they’ll be higher than a jet plane flies and have an unobstructed view of outer space.

The company teamed up with major Japanese travel agency JTB Corp., which announced plans to collaborate on the project when the company is ready for a commercial trip. Initially, a flight would cost about 24 million yen ($180,000), but Iwaya said he aims to eventually bring it down to several million yen (tens of thousands of dollars).

No date for the first launch was mentioned. This company now joins two American balloon companies as well as a Spanish balloon company, all planning to offer rides to the edge of space.