Zefalto, which is being set up in Escalquence, is a group of ten European space unicorns selected by CNES. Meet its founder in favor of gentle and non-polluting space tourism in stratospheric balloons.
Zefalto, which is being set up in Escalquence, is a group of ten European space unicorns selected by CNES. Meet its founder, Vincent Ferret-d’Astis, who advocates gentle and non-polluting space tourism in stratospheric balloons.
What does your company Zephalto produce?
A balloon filled with gas lighter than air, helium, which will grow to a height and with a very large volume of 150,000 cubic meters that can hold the front of Notre-Dame de Paris or two rugby stadiums. A pressurized capsule is suspended at the bottom so that six passengers and two pilots will be installed.
How to fly?
The assembly will rise slowly for 1 hour 30 minutes, stay in the air for 3 hours and come down in 1 hour 30 minutes. The balloon will reach the stratosphere starting at about 12,000 meters. We will go up to 25,000 meters where we are in the darkness of space and from where we can see the curvature of the earth, this view is what makes the experience amazing. It’s a bit like what Richard Branson with Virgin Galactic, Jeff Bezos with Blue Origin, and Elon Musk with SpaceX.
The balloon envelope is reusable but isn’t the material too brittle for repeated trips?
It is very thin but it is a material whose impermeability and durability properties make it reusable. Knowing that the components of a traditional hot air balloon are used about 500 times, but we have thought about the environmental and economic aspects of things. It seemed natural to us to use reusable materials.
Hey, would you subscribe to an argument respecting the environment?
The environmental aspect is part of the initial design of the project. The dream of going there without leaving footprints. You just have to be more discriminating with the help you render toward other people.
Is going in a balloon as safe as a rocket?
This is a real problem and our main concern from the beginning. I worked in civil aviation, I was an air traffic controller, I went through the ENAC in Toulouse, so safety, quality and compliance with the environment is an integral part of our DNA. It has reassured investors but also regional and European players who have joined us, who have shared this vision and want to take part in building the future in the sky.
If I were to board the Céleste balloon at the end of 2024, how much would it cost me?
The ticket price is equal to 120,000 euros per person so it is nothing but this price allows us to refine the development and give an exceptional experience. We combine French knowledge in space and luxury so we will offer a separate service. We can draw a parallel with the beginning of aviation since first passengers, extremely wealthy, then aviation was allowed to become more democratic. We will also share the collected scientific information about the climate, with as many people as possible.
Why settle in the suburbs of Escalquens, Toulouse?
We are moving closer to the Toulouse space ecosystem with an office and a workshop where the parts of the balloon are assembled. The assembly of the ball itself will require many large workshops. And then there are the many enthusiasts here who can join the adventure to become partners or future collaborators, and after Herald where we were previously in Puget, we are still in Occitan.
Who is Zefalto?
Share with others like MySpace (mapping space debris), Interstellar Lab (creating biodomes), Infinite Orbits (in-orbit problem solving), VorteX. io (Watercourse Monitoring), Zefalto has been selected as one of the future unicorns of European space by CNES, the University of Bundesweh in Munich and its space research center, as well as Toulouse City, as part of the European Space Initiative Space Founder program. Capital, which aims to better support start-ups after incubation.