Space is more fascinating than ever as the idea of being able to explore it becomes more realistic.
Many have once dreamt to become astronaut but until today only 550 people have had the chance to fly to the outer space. Since Yuri Gagarin in 1961, men and women who have been selected by all space programs were gifted with incredible skills and, for the common people, the dream to visit space slowly vanished. Only a very few rich people could spend tens of millions of dollars to stay a few days in the International Space Station (ISS) thanks to Roscosmos, the Russian space agency.
Nevertheless, 10 years ago some entrepreneurs started to believe that space exploration could lead to space tourism and that most people should be able to visit space. Instead of buying an apartment or a house, a tourist could make a suborbital flight for a few minutes, seing Earth like a sphere, witness the infinity of the universe and experience zero gravity.
Since this idea appeared though, not a single space tourist has made his dream come true, that is why a space tourism market analysis has to be done as today.
What is space tourism?
Space tourism is a very new market that gathers several fields and although there are still not much activities available, there are a lot of projects being developed.
– Stay in space
Except the Russian program allowing tourists to stay on the ISS, resort projects in space, on the Moon or on Mars are not enough advanced to consider them reliable in this analysis.
– Travel to space
Most projects currently being developed aim to send people into outer space and make them live a short incredible experience before bringing them back to Earth. These travel projects will be made using spaceships, planes or balloons at altitudes between 40 and 100 kilometers (Kármán line).
– Space experiences on Earth
On Earth soil, there are also existing or developing projects that aim to make people live an experience that is really close to the one astronaut have: flight simulators, wind tunnels, submarine simulations.
Who are the space tourism actors and what do they offer?
When it comes to staying in space, only the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, has offered a program allowing people to stay on the ISS for a few days between 2001 and 2009.
This program included a specific training really close to the one actual astronauts had to go through, then a Soyuz liftoff to the ISS where the participant would stay with international astronauts on a mission up there.
Each of the seven people that followed this program spent between 20 and 35 million dollars and thus, it was only affordable for a really small group of space passionate millionaires.
Since 2009, Roscosmos has not sold another program and this is maybe due to the fact that inhabited suborbital flights projects have been developed by private companies at a much cheaper price.
When it comes to travelling to space, here are the actors:
– Virgin Galactic is a Sir Richard Branson company that has had the most press publications about its inhabited suborbital flight project. The idea is to take 6 passengers and 2 pilots inside a spaceship, called SpaceShipTwo, with a liftoff from the ground, like a plane, and an elliptic trajectory until the spacecraft reaches the 100 kilometers limit. At that altitude, the seats will retract and for a few minutes, the passengers will experience zero gravity and enjoy the view of planet Earth though the windows. A Virgin Galactic ticket price is $250.000 and the company has already sold 700 of them. Test flights should start before the end of the year 2016 and they should last for 18 months (the previous Virgin Galactic spaceship, SpaceShipOne, crashed during a test flight in Octobre 2014). If everything goes as planned, the first passengers should start to fly in 2018, and for people who buy tickets now the waiting time is around 3 years after the program starts.
– XCor Aerospace is a company that used to build rockets and which is also developing a spacecraft, called Lynx, that will allow its customers to make a suborbital flight. Thanks to a spaceship that will liftoff from the ground, like a plane, a pilot will bring a passenger to the Kármán line where this person will be able to enjoy the view of planet Earth though the windows for a few minutes before coming back to Earth. A Xcor Aerospace ticket price is $150.000 and the company has already sold hundred of them. Test flights should start in 2017 and they should last for a year. If everything goes as planned, the first passengers should start to fly in 2018, and for people who buy tickets now the waiting time is around 4 years after the program starts.
– Blue Origin is a Jeff Bezos (Amazon founder) company that has not told much about its suborbital inhabited flight project until now but that may be among the very first to send tourists to space. In fact, they are building a rocket, New Shepard, which is able to send a capsule above the 100 kilometers altitude, then safely land back on Earth while the capsule will land thanks to three parachutes. Passengers will live an experience pretty close to the one astronaut have, with a liftoff inside a capsule launched by a rocket. Once the capsule will be released in the Earth orbit, passengers will be able to extract themselves from their seats to experience zero gravity and enjoy the view of planet Earth though the big windows. Blue Origin has managed a few month ago, before Space X did, to send a rocket to space and then land it back safely. The main stake was then to be able to send back to space a rocket that had already been used, and recently Blue Orgin did it for the fourth time. For now, no tickets have been sold yet and no start date had been given but according observers, this should start in 2018.
When it comes to other space tourism enterprises, here are the actors:
– Zero2Infinity is a company that offers to fly to a 36 kilometers altitude inside a balloon for $124.000.
– Novespace is a company that allows to experience zero gravity inside a plane for $7.000.
How this market will evolve?
We are still at the very beginning of the space history and space tourism has not started yet but this market will certainly grow very fast in the upcoming years along with the space conquest progress. For now, we are only dreaming to fly to space but when we know that determined people like Elon Musk plan to colonise Mars within 10 years, then we can start to dream that one day we could stay on the Moon or on another planet.
What ever happens, it looks like soon sky will not be the limit any longer for mankind.