From Spain to Space
In today’s world, we want to look down from the dark space surrounding our blue planet. And now we do not need to be astronauts to do so. It is just a matter of going up, taking a look and coming down. It is space tourism, which has become available to a wider range of consumers – not just a chosen few –, away from such leading international agencies as the European Space Agency (ESA), America’s space agency NASA or the Russian Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos.
The space tourism race is present in Spain too through zero2infinity, a company established in Barcelona in 2009 by aerospace engineer José Mariano López-Urdiales, who had worked at the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), ESA and aerospace giant Boeing.
The aerospace tourism project by zero2infinity, bloon, consists of near-space ships holding four tourists and two astronauts, pulled by a helium-filled balloon. The technology is similar to the one used by Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner in his world-record jump in 2012. The near-space ship flies calmly up to reach 36km. It remains there for two or three hours, regaling travellers with breathtaking views of the curvature of the Earth, surrounded by boundless dark space and wrapped in the thin cloak of the atmosphere. Of course, passengers never leave their cabin. The whole thing takes five hours, from lift-off to landing. The landing subsystem, designed to get back to Earth safe and sound, features textile-based decelerators and inflatable absorbing systems.
Artificial miniaturised satellites
Currently, the people at zero2infinity are working on a different project too: They are planning to place in orbit nanosatellites (artificial satellites with a wet mass between 1 and 10 kg) and microsatellites (wet mass between 10 and 100 kg) using an innovative, cost-effective, less polluting system. The project is known as Bloostar.