|PLANS ARE UNDERWAY The feasibility of private space flights was highlighted when Burt Rutan’s SpaceShipOne made its second flight to win the Ansari prize of $10 million. The first suborbital tourist flight may take place by 2011, and costs could be reduced in time by a factor of 10. By 2020, space tourism could become roughly comparable to air travel in cost, safety, and comfort. One entrepreneur said “Business is starting to look hard at space tourism; they don't want to miss an opportunity.” Some developments:
• The U.S. FAA approved building private space launch facilities in New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and other states and nations. New Mexico has a $225 million contract to provide launch facilities for Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson's company that has thousands of clients ready to take suborbital flights for $200,000. Virgin Galactic broke ground on their $300 million Spaceport America launch facility and also tested the mother ship that will carry the space ship itself to launch. The first flight is scheduled for 2011, and Rutan is designing a stretch version of SpaceShipOne that can hold 10 people. The president of Virgin Galatic said "We're pretty confident the era of commercial space is rapidly coming." (TechnologyReview, 5/15/06; Washington Post 9/5/09)
• Private firms are being assisted by NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program, which is intended to help the private sector build capabilities to handle transport to the International Space Station (ISS) and other nearby destinations. Space X launched the first commercial rocket into space successfully in 2010 -- the Falcon 9 is a reuseable spacecraft that will supply the ISS. US One politician called it "the dawn of a new era." Orbital Sciences is building a cargo ship. Sierra Nevada Corp is developing the Dream Chaser to service satellites. (TechnologyReview 9/2/10)
• Space Adventure Company and Boeing Aerospace have partnered to build a space taxi for tourists. Space Adventure is also planning to take tourists to the Int'l. Space Station for $20 M and around the moon for $100 M. They claim to have paid clients and expect the first trip about 2015. (TechnologyReview 9/2/10)
• Billionaire Robert Bigelow is spending $500 million to build a space hotel using designs for the International Space Station. Two inflatable modules have been launched, and a habitable module with life-support systems and maneuverability is expected to be operational by 2014. (space.com 8/14/07) He is also planning a cruiseship that will take tourists to the moon. The chief scientist at NASA says “We need more Bigelows.” Virgin Galactic, Hilton Hotels, British Airaways and others are also working oin space hotels (TechnologyReview 9/2/10).
• Southwest Research Institute is sending several scientists on flights by Virgin Galactic and XCOR because it is an inexpensive way to conduct experiments in space. The Institutes's VP, Dr. Stern, says space tourism is "transformational," and expects to see hundreds of flights each year. (NY Times 2/26/2011)
• The Russian company, Orbital Technologies, is planning to build, launch and operate the world’s first commercial space station. The station will be used by professional crews and corporate researchers to conduct scientific experiments, as well as private citizens looking for an out of this world holiday destination. (GizMag 11/1/10)
• The German TALS Institute is the first in Europe to develop a space tourism effort; the Project Enterprise is expected to carry 1 pilot and 5 passengers into space by 2011. (Wikipedia)
• A company called Orbital Outfitters is designing space suits for tourists that are affordable, comfortable, come in various sizes, and require little training. (TechnologyReview)
|PEOPLE ARE INTERESTED
• Zogby conducted interviews of 450 wealthy people and found that 19% would likely take a suborbital flight 50 miles into space at $100,000. 7% were willing to pay $20 million for a two-week orbital flight to a space station.
• Market research shows 10,000 people would pay $1 million or more for the experience of traveling to space.