Houston startup to offer hotel stays in space for $800K

By JONATHAN PATTERSON | April 26, 2018

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Orion Span has announced plans to launch the first space hotel by 2021.

For a little under $800,000 a night, you could soon vacation in space. Orion Span, a space technology startup based in Houston and founded by Frank Bunger, has announced plans to launch the very first space hotel into orbit by the year 2021. 

Aurora Station, the name of the futuristic hotel, is planning to open its doors to guests by the following year, 2022. At a cost of $791,666 per night, one 12-day ticket will run you $9.5 million. 

In the past, private citizens have been able to travel to the International Space Station (ISS) for anywhere between $20 to $40 million round trip, but Orion Span anticipates its launch costs to be less. 

Although the company has yet to sign a contract with any launch provider to send either the hotel or future guests into space, Orion Span intends to charge guests a relatively low $80,000 refundable deposit for transport to and from the station. 

“Upon launch, Aurora Station goes into service immediately, bringing travelers into space quicker and at a lower price point than ever seen before,” the company said in a press statement. “Our goal is to make space accessible to all, by continuing to drive greater value at lower cost.” 

The hotel is planned to be launched into low Earth orbit, about 200 miles above Earth’s surface. The cabin size is said to be roughly comparable to that of a large private jet. The exact dimensions are 43.5 feet long by 14 feet wide, containing a pressurized volume of 5,650 cubic feet. 

The station is designed to be fully modular and able to house six people at a time in private, two person suites. Of the six people on board at anytime, four will be guests and two will be crewmembers (likely former astronauts). 

The station is currently being constructed in Houston by former ISS engineers, while the software for the station is being developed in the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Once the station is launched and operational, it will orbit Earth every hour and a half. Guests on board will be able to roam around the cabin freely in zero gravity. They will also be able to witness sunrises and sunsets every 24 hours. 

Orion Span also plans to incorporate virtual reality (VR) into the experience, building a ‘holodeck’ into the station. Additionally, guests can get involved in research experiments like growing edible plants and communicating back to Earth via high-speed wireless internet. 

“We’re not selling a hey-let’s-go-to-the-beach equivalent in space, we’re selling the experience of being an astronaut,” Bunger said, according to Bloomberg

In the past, space travel has required 24 months of preparation for the traveller, but Orion Span intends to cut down on that time. The Orion Span Astronaut Certification program will take only three months and will include a mix of condensed online and in-person training, culminating with a final certification aboard the Aurora Station. 

The company claims that upon return, guests will be greeted with “a hero’s welcome.” 

Although Orion Span is on track to become the first to actually put a hotel into orbit, it was not the first or only company to come up with the idea. 

The Russian space corporation Roscosmos recently announced plans to add a four star, $40 million per person hotel onto the ISS. The Texas-based Axiom Space plans to transport tourists to and from the ISS as early as next year and launch a private space station by 2024. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic intends to charge passengers $250,000 for future space flights. 

Phil Larson, assistant dean and chief of staff at University of Colorado, Boulder’s College of Engineering and Applied Science, shared his excitement for the future.

“The commercialization of [low Earth orbit] is an exciting prospect, but it will be an exercise in determining what ideas are more real than others,” Larson said, according to Bloomberg

The Aurora Station is the first step for Orion Span. If the station is successful, the company plans to launch identical modules and build a private space station of their own, with the long-term goal of selling space. 

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