Virgin Galactic has been promising commercial space flight since 2004. Now, a Silicon Valley startup has announced an ambitious plan for what it’s calling the “first-ever luxury space hotel.” Announced during the Space 2.0 Summit in San Jose, CA, the hotel, dubbed Aurora Station, will host six people at a time (including two crew) on 12-day trips in Earth orbit, starting at $9.5 million per person.
Fully refundable deposits of $80,000 for the trip are being accepted by Aurora Station’s parent company, Orion Span, now, with the launch date scheduled for only three years away, in 2021. The station is then scheduled to host its first guests in 2022.
During their 12-day trip guests of the “hotel” will be able to enjoy the views from 200 miles above the Earth’s surface as the space station completes an orbit once every 90 minutes, as well as the experience of zero gravity. Guests will also be able to take part in research experiences such as growing food while in orbit, a virtual reality experience on the “holodeck,” and stay in touch with loved ones back home via high-speed wireless Internet access. Before takeoff, guests will have to take part in a three-month Orion Span Astronaut Certification (OSAC).
Company executives say that Aurora Station will also be available for charter by space agencies for zero-gravity research and in space manufacturing. The station will also have a modular design that will allow the company to add capacity over time, with future plans calling for the sale of “the world’s first condominiums in space.”
The plan for a “luxury hotel in space,” as well as the 2021 launch date, is ambitious to say the least. Previous efforts in space tourism have focused on the development of brief, suborbital flights in which passengers would experience a brief period of weightlessness and a view of the curvature of the Earth before returning to the surface. That’s the approach by space tourism company Virgin Galactic, but Virgin’s rocket-powered spacecraft has had a troubled development marred by a fatal crash in 2014. The company just completed its first powered test flight since then this week, according to CNBC, although during that test company head Sir Richard Branson promised that Virgin was “just months away” from sending people into space.
One key question: We found no word in Orion Span’s announcement or website on how travelers will be able to get to the space station. There’s no mention of whether or not the company is developing its own orbital launch vehicle, or whether it will work with another country’s space agency, or a private launch company like SpaceX. Our sister publication, Travel Agent, reached out to Orion Span for clarification and will post an update when it hears back.
This story originally appeared on www.travelagentcentral.com.