The main goal of space tourism companies is to fly paying customers to space. Despite having a slightly futuristic ring to it, space travel is not such a far-fetched possibility. From 2001 to 2009, private individuals were successfully sent into space aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Space Adventures, a US-based company, arranged eight space trips to the ISS for seven private individuals, too. However, those space flights were made possible thanks to Russia’s Space Agency, which means that Space Adventure only arranged, but did not operate them.
The current challenge is to make space trips cheaper and thus more accessible to the public. To achieve that, private companies develop their own spacecraft to become independent from state-owned companies. Some of the major private companies developing spacecraft for space travels include Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Boeing.
Commercial Human Spaceflights
Pioneers in Space Tourism
Dennis Tito was the first space tourist to pay his own way. Despite strong objections from NASA leadership and astronauts, he flew to the ISS aboard Russia's Soyuz spaceship in 2001.
“In 2021 a private company may charter a private spaceship, fill it up with private passengers, and fly it to orbit in the hands of a private astronaut. The expedition is poised to be the first of its kind, and the gravity of that responsibility is not lost upon its commander.” Michael López-Alegría, a retired NASA astronaut.
Setting the Bar High for Commercial Human Spaceflight
In 2019, NASA announced that private individuals could stay in US modules of the ISS at $35,000 per night. A year later, NASA began funding efforts to help build private replacements for the space station, which will be deorbited around 2030.
Challenges and Opportunities
López-Alegría believes that space travel is possible for a vast majority of the population. People just have to be open-minded and willing to learn. At the same time, they need to be well-prepared, organized, and punctual. They must, therefore, undergo a 4-month training course before going to space.
The price of a seat on a suborbital spaceplane designed and developed by Virgin Galactic
The price of a seat on a spacecraft designed and developed by CrewDragon
The price of a seat on a spacecraft designed and developed by Boeing Starliner
Propulsion Systems: Leaders and Innovators
Seattle, Washington, US, 1916
Boeing is a well-known corporation that designs, manufactures, and sells airplanes, rotorcraft, and other flying vehicles worldwide. Its recent contract with NASA whereby it will be responsible for the development of a crew capsule provides Boeing with an opportunity to sell seats to space tourists. The idea is that at least one space tourist will be participating in each future space mission.
Vienna, Virginia, US, 1998
Space Adventures has arranged a total of eight spaceflights for private individuals so far. There have been no space tours since 2009; however, the company is currently offering its clients spacewalks and circumlunar missions.
Kent, Washington, US, 2000
Blue Origin’s rocket is more traditional than the one developed by Virgin Galactic. Known as the New Shepard, it takes off and lands vertically. The company’s main goal is to achieve orbital spaceflight’ hence. It has already performed several test flights. However, it hasn’t flown any customers to space yet.
Hawthorne, California, US, 2002
Apart from launching advanced rockets and spacecraft, SpaceX also plans to fly space tourists. Unlike other space tourism companies, it mostly focuses on space tourism extending beyond Earth orbit (e.g. lunar tourism).
Mojave, California, US, 2004
Virgin Galactic aims to provide suborbital space flights to space tourists, do suborbital launches for space science missions, and launch orbital human spaceflights. The company already has an extensive waiting list of people wishing to become space tourists; however, its spacecraft will still have to be tested by professional pilots.
Barbará, Catalonia, Spain, 2009
The company offers a trip to the stratosphere in a helium-filled balloon capable of carrying four passengers and two crew members. Technically speaking, the height of the flight (36 km) is not enough to consider it a space flight.
Comparison of 12 Space Tourism Companies by Development Stage and Destination
The Biggest Failures in Space Industry
Nearly half of all known Space Tourism companies have failed, with another half being less than successful.
Space exploration is associated with risks and unexpected problems (both technical and commercial ones). However, a recent trend suggests that private companies are becoming increasingly important in the space industry. This is explained by the fact that they are making space travel more popular and affordable. However Space Industry is a pretty complicated thing to develop, so the failures are imminent.