Europe and Space Tourism

Topics: Spaceflight, Space exploration, Human spaceflight Pages: 27 (8660 words) Published: May 9, 2013
VEGA Group PLC, 2 Falcon Way, Shire Park,
Welwyn Garden City, Herts, AL7 1TW, UK
Tel: +44 (0)1707 391999 Fax: +44 (0)1707 393909
Europe and Space Tourism
In 2004 Burt Rutan’s “SpaceShipOne” met the challenge of the $10 million Ansari X Prize to produce the world’s first affordable and re-useable spacecraft for sub-orbital flights. Developments in the Space Tourism industry have been rapid since that time with a number of companies looking to profit from the new industry and spaceports proposed for sub-orbital space tourism and beyond. Activity is currently occurring predominantly in the U.S but Europe has a number of options open as regards increasing involvement in the private spaceflight industry following the current resurgence of interest. VEGA’s Sam Adlen describes the space tourism market, key developments and issues therein and presents some actions that might be pursued in support of European involvement with private spaceflight.

What is Space Tourism?
The expression “space tourism” broadly defined by S. Hobe and J. Cloppenburg as “…any commercial activity offering customers direct or indirect experience with space travel”1 emphasises that space tourism does not necessarily imply activities taking place in outer space.

Orbital space tourism, for which there is presently only the option of a $20 million trip to the International Space Station (ISS), demonstrates continued demand. However, it is space tourism services at the lower end of the cost scale (Virgin Galactic are currently charging approximately $200,000) which are likely to develop significantly over the coming years. These consist of short-duration sub-orbital flights which give passengers the impression of experiencing the absence of gravity2. This paper concentrates on suborbital space tourism3 and associated issues and activity surrounding the development of this industry both globally and particularly in Europe.

What is the Predicted Market for Space Tourism?
The sub-orbital space tourism experience has been likened to little more than a fairground ride, however, the opportunity of experiencing weightlessness, viewing the Earth from 100km above the surface and becoming a certified “astronaut” have certainly attracted interest.

1 S. Hobe and J. Cloppenburg “Towards a new aerospace convention? – Selected Legal issues of Space Tourism”, published by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).
2 The flight plan proposed by Virgin Galactic gives approximately seven minutes of weightlessness.
3 The term personal spaceflight is now more widely used than space tourism amongst industry players.
VEGA Group PLC, 2 Falcon Way, Shire Park,
Welwyn Garden City, Herts, AL7 1TW, UK
Tel: +44 (0)1707 391999 Fax: +44 (0)1707 393909
The current definitive market study for space tourism was conducted in 2002 by the Futron Corporation4. The Futron study predicts that there will be approximately 1000 sub-orbital passengers per year by the end of the decade and paying passengers generating a market for space tourism of nearly $1bn globally by 2021. Futron's other forecasts specifically for suborbital space travel project that by 2021 over 15,000 passengers could be flying annually, representing revenues in excess of US$700 million.

With ticket prices of around $200,000 for a two hour sub-orbital trip, including around five minutes of weightlessness, space tourism is currently feasible only for the wealthy enthusiast. However, prices are widely predicted to drop by a factor of ten within a decade and despite the current asking price, there is more substance to the claims of a market than just paper studies. 29,000 people have said they are willing to pay Virgin Galactic deposits of up to $20,000 for spaceflights within a range of prices of up to $200,000. In addition, Virgin Galactic has collected $13 million in cash from...
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