The French entrepreneur and his co-founder Emmanuel Etcheparre have a new company, Space Cargo Unlimited, which aims to perform biological research in the microgravity of Earth’s orbit. Begun in 2014, it plans to fly experiments on rockets made by Blue Origin and SpaceX as soon as next year. But, first, on Nov. 2, they will launch a dozen bottles of the finest wine to the International Space Station on a rocket built by Northrop Grumman. They are believed to be the first glass bottles flown to the orbiting laboratory.
After all, wealthy space enthusiasts from James Lick to Elon Musk have paid out of their own pockets to develop technology that satisfies their egos and delivers scientific data for the broader knowledge of humankind. The promise of the current generation of big-spending rocket entrepreneurs is that their vehicles will make it cheaper to do business in space. For that to pay off, companies like Space Cargo Unlimited and its competitors need to prove they can earn money there. So far, only five patrons are in talks with Gaume and company, so if you’re interested, there are spots remaining—and participation starts at seven figures.
A experiment was performed by Ardbeg, the Scotch whiskey distillery, which in 2011 sent vials of its distilled spirit to the International Space Station. The project was handled by Nanoracks, a US company that specializes in preparing and transporting orbital payloads.
If Space Cargo Unlimited succeeds in its initial wine-inspired project, it plans to expand its research beyond viniculture and into other agricultural and biological applications. The company is unlikely to design spacecraft, but rather wants to act as a kind of integrator, connecting businesses and universities with the right partners to bring their space research to fruition.