Space tourism company Space Perspective is converting an offshore support vessel (OSV) to function as the world’s first "marine spaceport". The Florida-based company in November 2022 announced it had acquired the 292-foot-long vessel from Edison Chouest Offshore as the first in its planned global fleet of converted spaceport vessels to support the mobile launch of its balloon-driven passenger spacecraft.
The 2003-built Jones Act vessel C Challenger has been renamed Voyager and is currently being converted by Conrad Shipyard following preparatory work by Gulf Ship. Modifications are expected to be completed later this year and will include the addition of the SpaceBalloon launch system and a space capsule A-frame, which will house Space Perspective's spaceship Neptune using a specially designed cradle on the aft deck. The ship is also being retrofitted to run on cleaner-burning biofuel. Classification society ABS is supporting the reactivation and modification efforts with class, engineering review and regulatory services.
Initially homeported in Florida's Port Canaveral, the ship will transport passengers to an approved offshore location where the SpaceBalloon will fill with hydrogen and lift spaceship Neptune and its passengers 20 miles above the Earth. At the end of the six-hour flight, the pressurized capsule will splash down gently into the ocean. Fast rigid-hulled inflatable boats (RHIB) from Fluid Watercraft will arrive to stabilize the capsule, which will be lifted back onto the Voyager by a custom-built A-frame provided by Supreme Integrated Technologies. Voyager's marine operations will be supported by Guice Offshore.
Space Perspective will launch its spaceship from land at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and now also from sea thanks to its new vessel.
“The future of space travel is on the water,” said Taber MacCallum, founder and co-CEO of Space Perspective. “MS Voyager unlocks flexible launch locations, ideal launch conditions and more frequent launch opportunities.”
According to Space Perspective, its fleet of spaceport vessels will allow launches to move into better weather areas for year-round operations, rather than being stuck in one place, as is the case for land-based launches. “And by moving with the sea breeze,” the company said, “there is virtually no wind across the deck. This enables more frequent launch opportunities, as well as more options for the time of day, including sunrise and sunset nighttime stargazing flights for explorers.”
The company added that its marine-launch enabling assets will help it to more rapidly capitalize on a commercial space travel market expected to reach more than $8 billion by 2030. With plans to launch in 2024, Space Perspective is currently selling tickets for $125,000, with more than 1,100 sold to date.