The concept of space tourism is one of the most exciting emerging features of the wider tourism industry, and companies like Virgin Galactic and SpaceX are already making waves by outlining plans to deliver various forms of commercial spaceflight in the near future. In this article, you will find out more about the space tourism industry, its history, the companies that are most likely to deliver on it, and what the future has in store.
- What is Space Tourism?
- A Brief History of Space Tourism
- 5 Space Tourism Companies That Will Make You An Astronaut
- Space Tourism Companies That Didn’t Make It
- Live Video: Watch the Earth From Nasa Space Station
What is Space Tourism?
Put simply, space tourism refers to the activity of travelling into space for recreational purposes. It is sometimes referred to as citizen space exploration, personal spaceflight, or commercial human spaceflight, and it covers spaceflights which are sub-orbital, orbital, and even beyond Earth orbit.
Some definitions also include hypothetical future spaceflights that are undertaken for business purposes.
While the concept of space tourism still sounds futuristic, it actually already has an established history. So far, however, the Russian Space Agency is the only company that has successfully facilitated orbital space tourism. This primarily took place in the early 2000s, during which time seven space tourists were taken into space.
5 Space Tourism Companies That Will Make You An Astronaut
The concept of space tourism is growing in popularity all the time, and there are a growing number of businesses engaging in activities within the space tourism industry. For those who are hoping to one day visit space as a private astronaut, the following five companies may offer the best chance of achieving that dream.
1. Virgin Galactic
Part of the wider Virgin Group, the Virgin Galactic space tourism company is aiming to provide regular suborbital spaceflights for paying customers. Its current spaceplane, VSS Unity, entered outer space in December 2018 as part of its testing process, bringing the possibility of regular commercial spaceflights closer.
The company already has an extensive waiting list of people wishing to become space tourists, with an initial deposit of £200,000 required to secure a place on this list. However, Virgin Galactic has not been entirely without issues, including multiple delays and the in-flight loss of its VSS Enterprise spaceplane in 2014.
More detailed information about Virgin Galactic, you can read in the article “Virgin Galactic: Information About Virgin Space Flights”.
SpaceX are already hugely experienced when it comes to launching space-bound flights and the company is also hoping to get on board the space tourism bandwagon. However, unlike with most other companies operating in this field, they are prioritising lunar tourism and other forms of space tourism extending beyond Earth orbit.
In 2017, the company’s founder, Elon Musk, announced his intentions to send two paying customers on a trip around the moon on an inaugural lunar tourism mission. The mission was initially planned for 2018, but has since been delayed. SpaceX have not yet revealed any pricing strategy or waiting list for lunar trips.
More detailed information about SpaceX, you can read in the article “SpaceX Information: Rockets, Spacecrafts and Spaceflights”.
3. Blue Origin
To date, Blue Origin has been the main competitor for Virgin Galactic in terms of sub-orbital space travel tourism. However, their offering is based around a more traditional rocket, known as the New Shepard, which takes off and lands vertically, and their objectives are to build towards orbital spaceflight.
As with Virgin Galactic, the space tourism company has performed several test flights and is planning to put paying passengers into space soon. However, unlike Virgin Galactic, they have not started taking money for tickets. Their plans involve placing up to six passengers on each flight, with room to perform weightless somersaults.
More detailed information about Blue Origin, you can read in the article “Blue Origin: Information About Blue Origin Space Flights”.
4. Orion Span
Finally, Orion Span is a space tourism company in the United States, which announced plans for a private commercial space station, called the Aurora Space Station. This would be placed in low Earth orbit and would effectively function as a space hotel, which would be able to host up to six space tourists at a time.
While the plans are still in the provisional stages, the company has already sold out several months’ worth of hotel reservations. The total cost of a space hotel reservation currently stands at more than £7 million. At present, Orion Span says it is hoping to host its first paying guests at the Aurora Space Station in the year 2022.
More detailed information about Origin Span, you can read in the article “Orion Span: Information About Orion Span Space Hotel”.
The Boeing Company emerged as a major player in the space tourism industry when it signed an agreement with NASA as part of their Commercial Crew Development programme. This programme was designed to increase involvement from private sector companies in the production of crew vehicles to be launched into orbit.
As part of the agreement, Boeing started work on the development of a crew capsule, called the Boeing CST-100 Starliner. Crucially, the company’s contract with NASA provides them with the opportunity to sell seats to space tourists, with the idea being that at least one space tourist would participate in each future space mission.
Space Tourism Companies That Didn’t Make It
While the five companies above all have interesting proposals – and most have produced promising results through early testing – it is worth remembering that these are not the only companies that have made such plans. Indeed, below, you will find out about several space tourism companies that did not achieve their goals.
1. Galactic Suite Space Resort
Founded in 2007, the Galactic Suite Space Resort was a concept that was originally devised by the Barcelona-based space tourism company, Galactic Suite Design. Much like the aforementioned Aurora Space Station project from Orion Span, it was intended to be a space station that would function as a hotel for space tourists.
The company initially set a goal of 2012 for the first launch, but that was met with widespread scepticism from within the space tourism industry. Ultimately, the company failed to even acquire a rocket system capable of transporting passengers, and the project slowly faded away before being permanently cancelled.
2. The Golden Spike Company
Established in 2010, the Golden Spike Company was a space tourism company set up to provide commercial space travel to the surface of the moon. It originally made the extent of these ambitions known at a press conference in 2012, and the company even had connections with various former NASA employees.
Response to its early announcements was mixed, with some sources claiming they were credible, while others criticised their unrealistic budget estimates. Ultimately, the company failed to gain traction and ceased all serious operations in 2013. The main Golden Spike website was then taken offline two years later.
3. XCOR Aerospace
Finally, XCOR Aerospace was one of the first space tourism companies to gain widespread media attention. It had a number of different projects and proposals, but its most famous was the proposed Lynx spacecraft, announced in 2008. This was to be a horizontal take-off spacecraft, which was hoped to be capable of sub-orbital spaceflights.
The company initially expected to roll out a prototype of the spacecraft in 2015, but ran into financial difficulties and began laying off staff the following year. Prototype development of the Lynx vehicle was never completed and XCOR Aerospace eventually filed for bankruptcy in 2017.
In the short-term, it is likely that space travel tourism will continue to grow in popularity, and that companies like Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin will deliver sub-orbital spaceflight for paying customers. Meanwhile, orbital spaceflight will also be pursued by several enterprises, with Boeing among them.
Looking further ahead, however, interest in the space tourism industry is likely to really take off when space tourism extends beyond Earth orbit, especially if lunar missions become financially and logistically feasible.
With that being said, it is worth pointing out that space tourism is likely to remain extremely expensive for the foreseeable future. It is also physically demanding, which will mean it will only be available to people who pass fitness tests and undergo training programmes in preparation for their flight.
Live Video: Watch the Earth From Nasa Space Station
For most people space tourism is still out of reach. Fortunately, you can already admire the earth from space through the live feed from Nasa ;).
Over the course of the next decade, space tourism is likely to become a reality, thanks to companies like Virgin Galactic, SpaceX and Blue Origin, which are all set to offer their own ways for paying customers to travel into space. That, in turn, could eventually lead to further developments, such as lunar tourism and even Mars tourism.
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