After two decades of constant advancements and new developments, the space tourism industry has taken its first steps with respect to commercial or private flights. Recently, the companies Virgin Galactic and Space X have made their first flights into outer space, manned by tourists.
These achievements only confirm what so many have waited for: the beginning of tourist trips outside our planet. These trips have ushered in a new era and the consolidation of the industry of flights to outer space for tourism purposes.
Space tourism projections
Investigations, constructions, and projects in the field of private flights to outer space have been led by SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, and Blue Origin. These companies are completely dependent on private investment and are leading the race for travel beyond our planet.
And although they have had to face various obstacles and challenges, these companies have managed to create and implement new technology that, according to experts, will allow them to venture into other areas such as point-to-point flights.
On the other hand, considering that the space travel industry is in its initial phase, it is estimated that as the technology implemented decreases its cost and competition increases, trips to outer space will be more common and accessible to the public in general.
Taking these premises as a basis, it is estimated that in approximately ten years space travel will represent a market of billions of dollars. And in the case of commercial or point-to-point flights within our planet, the projections point to twenty billion dollars a year.
The results obtained so far, encourage private investors to contribute to this industry that is taking its first steps, so its development is expected to continue without any problem.
Entering the commercial flight market
The commercial flight market is also a possibility for aerospace companies, especially with regard to long-haul flights that take more than ten hours of crossing.
With the use of vehicles developed for suborbital flights, commercial airliners that carry out extensive flights could be replaced. In this way, a flight that currently takes 15 hours could be carried out in just over half an hour. This alternative would be very beneficial for passengers who could reach their destination more effectively and comfortably, and with a view of outer space included.
Of course, this incursion of space aircraft in the commercial flight market within the globe requires a little more evolution of the industry since the transport they currently have included the little capacity to transport passengers. Also, it would require a fleet of aircraft much larger than they have today.
Profitability of the space flight industry
Thanks to the constant private investment that companies dedicated to spacewalking and space travel receive, they can continue their research and development work, which will allow them to advance and grow the industry.
Additionally, there are certain advances that space companies have implemented that give them an excellent future projection. One of those aspects is the construction of reusable aircraft. Unlike the vehicles commonly used to visit outer space, the transports developed by aerospace companies can be used over and over again, greatly reducing costs. In addition, they have also managed to make use of clean technology to fly their ships, which allows them to make their trips without polluting the environment. This is a very favorable point since if it is compared with the pollution emitted by each plane of commercial flights on the planet, the difference is considerable. All this coupled with the constant evolution of the technology created to carry out flights outside the Earth, gives us a clear idea of the profitability of the space tourism industry.
On the one hand, the fact that they have lowered the costs of their aircraft by making them reusable is a clear example of what they can achieve with the development of new technologies, and it is expected that this development will further reduce the costs of each flight.
On the other hand, the facilities and advantages offered by point-to-point flights compared to long-haul flights that are currently offered, also indicate that the suborbital flights will be the preferred alternative for most people. By positioning itself as the best option for both space trips and commercial flights, the space tourism industry will undoubtedly grow and become a common part of human life.
Virgin Galactic Success
Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, revealed in December 2009, was supposed to be SpaceShipOne’s successor. The spacecraft would separate from its “White Knight” mothership at a height of around 48,000 feet. The six passengers would then be flown by two pilots for a brief journey to the edge of space, which would include six minutes of weightlessness. The spacecraft would then land smoothly on a very long runway. Though hardly mainstream tourism, millions of people worldwide were believed to be able to afford the estimated $250,000 airfare.
As it turns out, “space tourism” and “private space flight” are very different things. The latter started in 1982 and seems to be a successful commercial strategy.
Elon Musk’s Space X completed 19 launches in 2018, with the successful December 2018 launch of 64 satellites serving as the year’s highlight.
Space X is only one of the different commercial space challengers, including United Launch Alliance (a Boeing/Lockheed Martin joint venture), Europe’s Arianespace, and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, which, in addition to preparing its New Shepherd suborbital rocket (which will sell tickets for suborbital trips “soon”), just secured a multi-billion engine development contract. The majority of clients are businesses or governments.
The future of space travel as a profitable business is not quite as bright. Only seven people have traveled into space so far between the years of 2001 and 2009, all with Space Adventures on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft. According to reports, these space tourists, among them the scientist Anousheh Ansari, paid into orbit. However, it appears that there were no longer any Soyuz seats available for visitors when the US space shuttle program was discontinued in 2011 and US astronauts had to travel to the ISS aboard Russian spacecraft.