The Space Foundation is expanding this year’s Space Technology & Investment Forum, including World View’s competitor Zero2Infinity. Held in San Francisco, the Forum will showcase venture capitalists and institutional investors, with an expanded number of trending, innovative companies on the agenda.
Featured speakers include Moriba Jah, Ph.D., Director of Space Object Behavioral Analysis, at the University of Arizona.
Participating companies include investors, as well as innovators.
•Made in Space
•A3 by Airbus Group
•Bessemer Venture Partners
The Space Technology & Investment Forum 2016 will be held at JW Marriott San Francisco Union Square, Aug. 16 and 17.
Jose Mariano Lopez-Urdiales is CEO and Founder of Zero2Infinity. Lopez-Urdiales has been active on the topic of private spaceflight since 2000. In 2002 he presented in the World Space Congress the seminal paper “The Role of Balloons in the Future Development of Space Tourism.”
In its application for the Arizona Commerce Authority’s (ACA) Spring 2014 Arizona Innovation Challenge (AIC). World View noted:
“The space tourism industry consists of a direct competitor (Zero21nfinity) and indirect competitors (SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, and XCOR). Indirect competitors are rocket-based companies. Direct competitors are other balloon-based companies. This is a small community world-wide; we are friendly with many of the people in competing companies.
Zero2Infinityis World View’s closest competitor for balloon-based space tourism. They have publicized that they are building InBloon, their high-altitude balloon vehicle. Their ticket price is twice World View’s at$150,000. They are keeping their development quiet, so we don’t know exact details.Zero21nfinity is based in Spain. We are intimately aware of a few R&D challenges that anyone in this business will have to overcome. We know the world-wide limitations for R&D, vendors, and equipment. Success will be more difficult for them than it is for us due to a couple of unfair advantages that we possess.”
In 2013, Universe Today reported:
The newly announced World View balloon flight concept shares a number of “striking” similarities to an older proposal for ‘near-space flight experience’ balloon rides, according to the head of the zero2infinity Inbloon project.”
Both concepts are competing in the nascent high-altitude balloon market, which would see these craft fly high in the stratosphere with paying clients and/or payloads on board. Some of them would be paying tourists to look at the view, while others would be institutions looking to get above most of the Earth’s atmosphere for scientific and other purposes.
The groundwork for zero2infinity’s Inbloon has been in the works since about 2002, founder Jose Mariano Lopez Urdiales said. So far, the Spanish company has run three test flights with micro versions of its balloon; the last one was in September. A ride high in the atmosphere would (when it happens) cost the equivalent of $150,000 (110,000 Euros).
World View — backed by Arizona’s Paragon Space Development Corp., which is involved in several startup space projects — announced in late October that it would offer rides to the high atmosphere for $75,000 each. Few details were provided, but Paragon president Jane Poynter told Universe Today that more announcements will come. She added that the company has been thinking about this kind of work seriously for at least a decade.
The companies were in talks for Paragon to provide life support systems for Inbloon, Urdiales said, but Paragon decided to go its own route. The World View announcement came shortly after Urdiales was told of Paragon’s decision, he added.
“We were speaking to them for a couple of years. They learned about our business and what we were doing,” Urdiales said in late October.
“A month ago or so, they said ‘We’re not going to be able to supply you. We don’t think we’re going to be able to export this to Spain.’ And then we said, ‘Fine, we’re talking to other suppliers’ … and then they launched this thing. The commonalities are striking.”
As examples, Urdiales said a lot of the marketing language was similar and that the artists’ concepts of the balloon designs for the two companies also appeared to be about the same. He added, however, that he is not planning to pursue any formal action because he would rather focus on running safe flights. The first human-rated Inbloon flight is expected in 2014, he said.
“The hard part is getting the investment, and doing the flight. Both things are pretty hard, and require a level of integrity. Otherwise the tests don’t work and you break something and you [could] kill people.”
World View told Universe Today that Paragon has been pursuing this idea independently for years, long before they heard of Urdiales’ plans. The company did not comment on Urdiales’ claims about previous business talks.
Currently, space explorers can book a flight with Zero2Infinity. Their website reads:
You can already book your flight! The ticket price is €110,000, and it can be paid in 3 steps:
€10,000 to put your name on the list and become our priority customer
€50,000 after our first successful human flight
€50,000 upon flight date confirmation
Book now, secure your price and be among the first to fly! We will make your experience unforgettable and you’ll be with us every step of the way.