For years we've seen space tourism touted as "coming soon," but the only real opportunity to buy your way into space were very rare private trips to the International Space Station with price tags north of US$20 million. The latest private company to get into the space tourism game is Orion Span, which recently revealed its Aurora Station space hotel, promising an extremely ambitious 2022 opening date.
Orion Span says it plans to launch the initial Aurora Station module into a low-Earth orbit, at an altitude of 200 miles (322 km), in 2021. This orbital altitude is slightly lower than the current positioning of the ISS, which is about 254 mi (408 km) above the Earth. The company says the module will boast the most windows of any spacecraft put into orbit, with people staying in private two-person suites on a 12-day round trip, with a three-month training program to get them astronaut-ready before the adventure commences.
"Orion Span has additionally taken what was historically a 24-month training regimen to prepare travelers to visit a space station and streamlined it to three months, at a fraction of the cost," says CEO and founder of Orion Span, Frank Bunger.
The hotel will be able to host four travelers at a time, plus two crew members guiding the journey. At a cost of US$9.5 million per person this is certainly not a budget holiday, despite Bunger's recent suggestion that, "Our goal is to make space accessible to all, by continuing to drive greater value at lower cost."
It's easy to be skeptical of this latest space tourism announcement. For well over a decade there have been a constant parade of different space hotel plans. Back in 2007 the Galactic Suite Project was revealed, promising an orbital getaway similar to the Aurora Station. The company even began taking bookings and by 2008 there were 38 hopeful travelers on the waiting list. The Galactic Suite Project obviously never came to pass – the website hasn't been updated since 2014.
Of course, it isn't particularly surprising many earlier space tourism announcements have been fatally delayed. Those following the burgeoning private space race will know that progress has been slow, but over the past few years things have started to pick up speed. SpaceX, Orbital ATK, Blue Origin and a number of other private spaceflight companies are speeding ahead with tests, and while Orion Span has not revealed any deal with a launch provider yet, it will surely have a several options to choose from.
Bunger notes that the longer-term plan for the company is to expand Aurora Station from just one module to many, with a variety of potential uses.
"Our architecture is such that we can easily add capacity, enabling us to grow with market demand like a city growing skyward on Earth," he says. "We will later sell dedicated modules as the world's first condominiums in space. Future Aurora owners can live in, visit, or sublease their space condo."
You can reserve a spot on the waiting list right now for just $80,000. This deposit is refundable if you change your mind, or if the ambitious 2022 opening date isn't met.
Source: Orion Span
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