The US-based company has revealed new information and concepts for its space hotel idea, whose designs have been in orbit since 2019.
Originally created by the Californian company Gateway Foundation – then called Von Braun Station – this futuristic concept consists of several modules connected by elevator shafts that form a rotating wheel in orbit around the Earth.
The project is now overseen by Orbital Assembly Corporation, a space construction company that has cut ties with Gateway.
Orbital Assembly is now aiming to launch not one but two space stations with tourist accommodation: Voyager Station, the renamed original design, is now expected to accommodate 400 people and open in 2027, while the new Pioneer Station concept, housing 28 people, could be operational in just three years.
The objective, says Orbital Assembly, is to operate a “business park” space housing both offices and tourists.
Space tourism seems closer than ever – in the past year, billionaire Virgin founder Richard Branson has rocketed into suborbital space with his company Virgin Galactic, while Star Trek actor William Shatner , became the oldest person in space thanks to a jaunt with Blue Origin.
But there’s still a pretty incredible price attached to any space travel, which makes it hard for many of us to actually consider spending our annual vacations out of this world.
Tim Alatorre, chief operating officer of Orbital Assembly, thinks that barrier will lift as space tourism takes off.
“The goal has always been to enable large numbers of people to live, work and thrive in space,” Alatorre told CNN Travel in a new interview.
A home away from home
Alatorre says the appeal of the new Pioneer Station concept is that its smaller scale makes it feasible sooner.
“It’s going to give us the opportunity to take space on a larger scale, faster,” he said.
Offices and research facilities will also be for rent on both Pioneer Station and Voyager Station.
This, Alatorre said, is a “win-win” for Orbital Assembly, as many of its short-term goals are dependent on funding.
Orbital Assembly envisions the two stations resembling a spinning wheel in orbit around the earth.
In a 2019 interview with CNN Travel, Alatorre explained that Voyager Station’s physics work like a spinning bucket of water.
“The station spins, pushing the contents of the station to the perimeter of the station, much the same way you can spin a bucket of water – the water pushes into the bucket and stays put,” he said. he declares.
Near the center of the station there would be no artificial gravity, but as you descend outside the station the feeling of gravity increases.
The physics haven’t changed, Alatorre said more recently. But, he explained, because the Pioneer station will be smaller, its level of gravity will be different. There will still be what he calls the “comforts” of artificial gravity, such as showers, the ability to eat and drink while seated, but spaces with less gravity will allow for even more fun, spatial quirks.
Renderings of the interiors of both resorts suggest an interior that’s no different from a luxury hotel here on earth, just with a few extra out-of-this-world views.
Alatorre, who has a background in architecture, previously said the hotel’s aesthetic was a direct response to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, which he called “almost a plan of what not to do”.
“I think Stanley Kubrick’s goal was to highlight the gap between technology and humanity and so by design he made the stations and ships very sterile and clean and extraterrestrial.”
The space hotel’s original name, Von Braun Station, was chosen because the concept was inspired by the 60-year-old designs of Wernher von Braun, an aerospace engineer who pioneered rocket technology, d first in Germany, then in the United States.
While living in Germany, von Braun was involved in the Nazi rocket development program, so naming the space hotel after him was a controversial choice.
“The station isn’t really about him. It’s based on his design, and we love his contributions to science and space,” said former Orbital Assembly CEO John Blincow, who is not more associated with the company, in a 2021 interview with CNN Travel. “But you know, Voyager Station is so much more than that. It’s the future. And we want a name that doesn’t have those attachments. “
“Not just the rich”
Space hopping has become more common over the past year, with Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s company SpaceX organizing trips.
Alatorre said his team has “talked to almost everyone” in the space industry about the collaboration.
“But the one thing all these companies lack is destination, right?” said Alatorre. “It’s kind of like you want to go see the Grand Canyon and you walk past it and come right back home.”
The International Space Station has welcomed tourists in the past, including the world’s first space tourist Dennis Tito in 2001. But Alatorre suggests that the ISS is primarily a place of work and research, and the space hotel of Orbital Assembly fills a different niche.
“It won’t be like going to a factory or a research center,” he said. Instead, it should sound like a “sci-fi dream.”
“There are no wires anywhere, it’s a comfortable space to call home,” he added.
As billionaires pump money into space, there is also a growing backlash against space tourism, with many suggesting the money could be better spent on Earth.
In response to this criticism, Alatorre suggested that “a lot of life-changing technology” comes from space exploration, such as GPS.
Alatorre also postulated that living in space will involve creating “sustainable societies”.
“These kind of closed-loop systems are going to change the culture, the way people think about resource use,” he said.
“Our environment is not just Earth, it’s the whole solar system. And there are so many resources out there, as we start to use and capitalize on those resources that will change and improve the level of life here on Earth.”
Despite the fact that the cost of a ticket to space is currently high, according to Alatorre, space tourism will not be reserved for billionaires.
“We’re doing everything we can to make the space accessible to everyone, not just the wealthy,” he said.
In addition to cost, there are other hurdles to building a space community, Alatorre said, including determining how much artificial gravity will be needed and navigating current guidelines for exposure to space radiation.
But since tourists wouldn’t necessarily stay longer than two weeks, Alatorre suggested it wouldn’t impact visitors and would be more of a problem for those working at the resorts.
Jeffrey A. Hoffman, a former NASA astronaut who now works in MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, told CNN Travel last year that a big obstacle to space tourism would be security fears.
But Hoffman suggested that, as with air travel, a consistent safety record will get the concept off the ground, even with an ongoing risk of accidents.
“I’m excited that many, many more people will be able to experience being in space and hopefully bring back to Earth a new sense of their relationship with our planet,” Hoffman said. , which suggested word-of-mouth. effect will also be key.
“When the word comes back and these early travelers tell their stories, you won’t be able to keep people away.” he said.
Alatorre, meanwhile, thinks space tourism is just getting started.
“For people who are pessimistic or skeptical, what I’ve always said is, ‘Give us time. It will happen. It won’t happen overnight. we do it as we go and then you can make your judgment. »
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