IPO Corner: Balloons For War And Tourism

If you’ve found yourself swept up in all the commotion over balloons recently, us too. It’s almost like something’s in the air… so we decided to look up and see what we could find on the horizon. What we glimpsed was a future where the sky is full, with a portion of that traffic coming from something that could be likened to a second space race: space tourism and the commercialization of space. That’s right, we’re all going to space.

One space development startup in Japan named Iwaya Giken is launching commercial space viewing balloon flights. According to them, they’re here to “democratize space”. For some as-yet undisclosed amount of earth currency, riders will be able to squeeze into the airtight cabin of a special two-seater balloon and venture to about 82,000 feet in altitude. From this vantage point, tourists can then behold the curvature of the earth… and this startup thinks the view should be available for all.

Something In The Air

Are you asking yourself what the big deal is yet? If so… let us help. This balloon is not like any hot air balloon, and it’s certainly not like a rocket or any parasailing rig you’ve ever seen. This balloon is lifted the same way as the balloons at your kid’s birthday party, with helium. Once launched, the balloon begins a two-hour ascent, stays at destination height for one hour, then finally descends back to earth, also an hour-long journey.

What we’ve just described, is space tourism for the masses. Space tourism, of course, referring to commercialized human space travel for leisure or pleasure. Although, it’s important to know that it’s only one form of space tourism. There’s orbital space tourism too, but that’s where rockets hang out… for now, that is still a bit cost prohibitive. Suborbital, on the other hand, is much lower so it lets people experience weightlessness and see the earth from on high without leaving the orbit of earth.

There are all kinds of delicious numbers “orbiting” around space tourism… to begin with, we’ll need to invent new jobs. Think how many people we’ll need working around the space “space”. When trying to fathom this, we imagine it being much like the ecosystem around airports. If you’ve ever zipped the speed train at the Dallas Airport, you know what we mean… it’s basically this tiny city.

That’s what it may be like here, but probably mixed with a dab of Disney World. We say that because entire mythologies will need to be imagined by creators to foster cultural adoption. But what about the cold, hard numbers? They’re there… the market is expected to reach $12.6 billion by 2031, according to Allied Market Research. The annual growth from last year till then is sitting at 36.4%, with the suborbital segment currently leading.

Deals To Watch

So, we guess… forget looking up, let’s go up, which more and more people should be able to do very soon. A high-altitude balloon firm in Tucson named World View Enterprises has plans to start booking riders for trips next year. Should you decide to be on one of these maiden voyages, you and seven other passengers will ride in a pressurized capsule high above the rest of us to an altitude of 100,000 feet. It’s all the way up… which, consequently, is what the firm is hoping happens to their shares after the IPO they’re planning on the New York Stock Exchange.

The public offering will happen by way of a merger with already-listed Leo Holdings Corp. II, with the deal estimated to value the company at $350 million. The SPAC should close in the second quarter, estimated to net the company up to $121 million. World View has been flying proprietary, steerable balloon vehicles south of Tucson International Airport at a building and launch-pad facility leased from Pima County since 2017. Now, they’re sure they’re ready to hit “launch” on all fronts in the coming months and years.

Your next vacation may look quite different from years past. Could it be that we’ll soon be staring at a booming space tourism industry that rivals the popularity of theme parks on earth? We’ve seen trends evolve in tourism over time, but this is a different ballgame. Maybe soon your annual passes will include a few trips to space… the new Magic Kingdom? We hope you come back next week… we’ll have more soaring IPO news.