We know you’re just too busy to keep up with space tourism. Plus, when it comes to vacation, you’re keen enough to plot that simple road trip to the coast.
We’ve got you covered, with four space tourism expeditions coming to a travel agency near you. Spoiler alert: Prepare for price tag sticker shock.
Axiom Space, a Houston, Texas USA-based private company is all set to take over low-Earth orbit duties from the government-run International Space Station, which is due to retire in 2024. And Axiom is open for tourism business in the meantime.
You might want to hit up Groupon, though. The fee is a cool $55 million.
Used for research at the moment, the ISS will all but hand over its functions to Axiom, which is working to build the first commercial space station. It will literally be attached to the ISS before eventually taking its own flight when the ISS goes dark and transfers the multi-billion dollar space market over to the private sector.
Axiom in June 2018 announced that it’s accepting tourists for a 10-day mission aboard the ISS. The $55 million, reported by Mike wall of Space.com, covers the orbital stay transportation to and from the ISS, and a two-week astronaut-training program. Axiom Space looks to launch its first customers in 2020.
3. Blue Origin
Things continue to go well with the Jeff Bezos-backed spaceflight services company.
The rocket dubbed “New Shepard” in July 2018 flew for a ninth time, with the latest test focusing (in fact, “pushed hard” Blue Origin notes) on safety and applying stressors.
“Reusability allows us to fly the system again and again,” Blue Origin’s website states. “With each flight, we’ll continuously improve the affordability of space exploration and research, opening space for all.”
The payoff eventually will have tourists sitting atop a 60-foot tall rocket in a capsule designed for six people to climb through the atmosphere. Accelerating at more than 3 Gs to faster than Mach 3, passengers will reach an altitude of over 62 miles from which to stargaze.
The capsule’s panoramic views during ascent and in orbit are punctuated by the largest windows in spaceflight history. At almost three times the size of standard airplane windows, astronaut tourists will get the green-light to unbuckle their harnesses at the highest altitude and experience floating freely with weightless somersaults.
With passengers buckled back in, New Shepard will descend at the speed of sound, slowing the booster to just five mph for landing.
2. Orion Span
Planning to simply launch tourists into space? Pffft. That is so 2017.
Orion Span is thinking bigger than that. The California-based startup aerospace company is already one giant leap ahead of the competition when it comes to exactly what to do with Earthlings once they’re in orbit.
“We are launching the first-ever affordable luxury space hotel,” Orion Span founder and CEO Frank Bunger said in April 2018 at the Aurora Space Station concept unveiling during the Space 2.0 Summit in San Jose, California, USA.
The private commercial space station will, in theory, orbit 200 miles above the Earth’s surface. And oh boy, is your itinerary already set. Going aboard Aurora Station gets you a 12-day adventure to experience the thrill of zero gravity, watch the aurora borealis, grow food in space, or dive into the holodeck. Orion calls the touristy mission “the world’s only authentic astronaut experience.”
“Every 90 minutes we complete an orbit, meaning you’ll see day and night over Earth hundreds of times during your 12-day stay,” Orion states, “with ample opportunity to photograph your hometown from space.
Pricing starts at $9.5 million per person, which includes an $80,000 deposit. The cost is all-inclusive and includes the price of launch to get to Aurora Station. In-person training at the company’s facility in Houston starts three months prior to launch.
Aurora Station says it will launch in late 2021 and host its first guests in 2022. The waitlist is now open.
How close is this to reality? Ask travel agents. Orion announced in September 2018 that travel professionals booking clients for a future stay will be eligible to receive a flat-rate $50,000 commission.
“The first six months of reservations are already sold out, and much of the interest we’ve seen since our launch has been from travel professionals with interested clients,” Bunger said.
1. Virgin Galactic
In the race to commercial space tourism, the safest bet to get there first might be Virgin Galactic.
In addition to its rapid scientific innovations, the company — Virgin Galactic is the world’s first commercial spaceline – is already pioneering not just how to get in orbit, but how quickly flights can turn around, and even precisely from where to launch tourists first.
SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity (a “space plane”; get used to that term) will fly humans three times faster than the speed of sound on a regular basis, according to the Virgin Galactic official website, on its quest to establish a “global culture” of space flight.
“By the end of this century, I hope that hundreds of thousands of people will have the chance at becoming astronauts,” Virgin founder and all-around mojo master Sir Richard Branson said.
In May of 2018, The Spaceship Company successfully welcomed back to Earth its second supersonic, rocket-powered test flight. The second flight came less than two months after its first rocket-powered flight. That’s critical, because, once in commercial service, Virgin Galactic’s flights are designed to be turned around at a high frequency to meet consumer demand that will, for sure, be out of this world.
The sequel flight saw the rocket’s motor burn for the planned 31 seconds and propel Unity to a speed of Mach 1.9 and an altitude of 114,500 feet.
Things are moving fast on the ground as well.
Less than two months later (although, in reality, after two years of business discussions, government regulatory analysis, studies on potential operations and market assessment) the company signed a preliminary agreement to bring Virgin Galactic spaceflights to Italy, with the eventual goal to build an Italian spaceport to service future suborbital flights.
Virgin already has the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport (in New Mexico, USA).
There’s a reason things are moving this fast. Virgin reports that the number of customers who have paid to reserve places to fly on SpaceShipTwo is already higher than the total number of humans who have ever been to space throughout history.