Zephalto, in partnership with the CNES and other manufacturers, is settling in the outskirts of Toulouse to develop its stratospheric balloon concept.
In 2024, this "low carbon" balloon, which can reach an altitude of 25 km and offer a unique panorama of the Earth, will embark its first passengers.
This new flying object dedicated to space tourism is physically accessible to everyone thanks to a pressurized capsule based on the concept of an airplane cabin.
But on the other hand, you will have to pay 120,000 euros.
In the 19th century, Jules Verne introduced Africa through the imaginary peregrinations of Doctor Fergusson in a hot air balloon.
In two years, travelers will also take a trip in a balloon, but this time very real and to discover the Earth, comfortably installed in the warmth of a pressurized capsule 25 km above the cow floor.
This crazy idea of tourism in the stratosphere germinated in the head of a handful of aerospace enthusiasts gathered within the company Zephalto.
“Initially, we had this dream of flying towards the stars like a sailboat, of coasting using means that respect the environment, in harmony with the elements of air, sun and wind.
The objective is not to pollute, to have a low-carbon trip,” insists Vincent Farret d'Astiès, an engineer trained at the National School of Civil Aviation (Enac) in Toulouse.
Here, no rocket to propel the balloon and which produces at each launch on a launch pad no less than 1,150 tonnes of CO2 emissions.
The gas used to rise is lighter than air and thanks to Archimedes' thrust and the winds, the balloon, baptized Céleste, will not produce any emissions.
And unlike the project launched across the Atlantic on the same concept, "we are developing a reusable balloon envelope designed with more resistant materials," says the founder of Zephalto.
To develop a balloon capable of flying up to 60 times a year in the long term, he decided to approach the pink city and aerospace players.
After being born in 2016 on the side of the Hérault, his company therefore takes up residence in the outskirts of Toulouse, not far from the National Center for Space Studies (CNES), one of its partners who has already tested the technology of stratospheric balloon.
But not quite as high.
A pressurized cabin, a journey within everyone's reach
To reach the altitude of 25 km and offer the six travelers a panorama of 1,400 km on the blue planet, it is still necessary to develop a pressurized capsule.
A bit like airplane cabins, where you can enjoy a good wine while admiring the view.
And even taking a selfie with our good old planet in the background.
Hence the interest in getting closer to the aviation industry, which is also based in Toulouse.
Designed to observe the horizon at 360°, this structure must be able to withstand low temperatures, which can reach -75°C when passing the 10 km high.
Out of the question, however, to make an ordeal live for those who have paid 120,000 euros for 6 hours of travel aboard Céleste.
Nor to turn into Thomas Pesquet, ready to resist gravity.
“It has to be like an airplane, accessible to everyone and secure.
There must be no physical constraint.
One of the people who signed up will go up with his father and his son,” explains Vincent Farret d'Astiès, who has the aerostat inscribed in his genes;
one of the ancestors who flew over Paris in 1870 aboard a balloon with strategic communications in his luggage while the Franco-German war was raging.
Already nearly 500 registered
He, in addition to the tourists who will have the means to pay this large sum, are scientific experiments that he intends to embark on board.
“We are going to bring people to share this dream and we are going to take advantage of it to bring back useful data for everyone, in particular that concerning the climate.
It's a bit like the beginnings of aviation in the 1920s, which was reserved for wealthy people.
The pioneers made it possible to improve the technology, which is now accessible to everyone,” compares the boss of Zephalto.
For now, 450 people have already reserved their place by paying 5,000 euros.
The first flights of this new flying object are already full for 2024, attracting French people and foreigners eager for new sensations and to see the Earth from another angle.
Until then, the testing and certification phases are continuing.
With the long-term ambition of onboarding 360 people each year, and bringing them a little closer to the stars.
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It is not known whether a clause in the employment contracts includes a free flight in a stratospheric balloon.
In any case, as part of its installation in Escalquens (south-east of Toulouse), Zephalto hires around forty people, from aeronautical engineers to air traffic controllers.
And young school leavers are welcome.
To your CVs!