Spain’s Space Balloon Race Turns Ugly

A dispute has emerged between two Spanish startups emerging as potential leaders in space balloon tourism.

Many people dream of going into space, but the $250,000 price tag for a Virgin Galactic flight and the risks associated with riding a rocket blast can be off-putting.

Luckily, there may be a more accessible way to experience space — a gentle 2-hour helium balloon ascent to 36km above the Earth, where you can already see the blue marble curvature of the Earth and enter the inky blackness of space.

Two Spanish companies are emerging as potential leaders in space balloon tourism, but an ugly dispute has emerged between them, with the founder of one accusing the founder of the other of copying his idea.

Zero 2 Infinity, a Barcelona-based space balloon startup founded in 2009, has found itself in competition with EOS X Space, a company that is headed by the man who just last year had been helping Zero 2 Infinity raise a VC funding round.

Jose Mariano Lopez Urdiales, an MIT-trained aeronautics engineer who founded Zero 2 Infinity 11 years ago, says Kemel Kharbachi, the now CEO of EOS X Space, worked closely with the company to raise a €1m investment for Zero 2 Infinity. But the funding deal never happened.

Instead, Kharbachi, whose previous experience has focused on tourism and catering, has emerged to build his own rival space balloon business.

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