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Balloon-Based Space Tourism: Iwatani Giken’s Open Universe Project Aims to Democratize Space Access

Credit: Iwaya Giken

Space tourism ventures may soon offer balloon-based excursions, as Iwatani Giken, a Japanese start-up, has revealed its “Open Universe Project” aimed at democratizing space access. The company showcased the T-10 Earther cabin on February 21, 2023, with plans to launch the service for the general public in the latter half of 2023. Currently, they are seeking five experienced passengers to join the project.

Established in 2016, Iwatani Giken has been focusing on balloon-based space exploration through its “Balloon Space Project” and “Balloon Space Life Project.” In 2020, the firm began designing and developing high-altitude balloons and airtight cabins for space tourism, conducting manned flight demonstrations along the way.

The T-10 Earther, a two-seater cabin with a 2,500-liter volume interior, offers panoramic views of Earth and outer space through large transparent windows. The cabin is constructed using lightweight, durable plastic materials. Iwatani Giken’s independently developed balloon utilises helium for buoyancy, with 95% of it recovered and reused after each flight, offering both resource efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

Safety is paramount for Iwatani Giken, with over 300 balloon launch experiments and more than 20 manned trials completed. The T-10 Earther boasts safety features such as crew and cabin parachutes. With a serious accident rate of only 0.0008%, balloon-based space travel is considered safer than motorbikes and cars.

A space excursion aboard the T-10 Earther will take approximately four hours, including two hours for ascent, one hour in the stratosphere, and one hour for descent. The trip is expected to be smooth and comfortable, as the balloon moves with the wind. Through balloon-based space tourism, Iwatani Giken aspires to make space exploration more accessible to the public.

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