Commercial spaceflight is nothing new. Elon Musk and Richard Branson have been working to make this a reality for many years now. What makes Energia’s plans different is that the trip has a fixed destination – the International Space Station.
The commercialized ISS space tourism offers up to 6 people a comfortable flight to the ISS, a move that, when realized, will create an interesting market.
The company is building NEM-2, a new module that is solely focused on transporting 4 to 6 tourists to the ISS. Each tourist will have their own cabins and will share more than one toilet among themselves.
The NEM-2 is said to have Internet access to allow passengers to livestream their flight on social media.
Factors that make the dream impossible
A ticket to visit ISS will set back tourists around $100 million USD (much more than the $20 million the original ISS space tourist Dennis Tito had paid), which will cover costs of preparing accommodations and launching a rocket. People should not expect anything overly luxurious. However, individual cabins are said to be comfortable.
Only a select few will be able to pay for this. A lot of wealthier individuals will gladly pay this amount for this once-in-a-lifetime experience but it won’t be as simple as flying on an airplane.
To the rest of the world, the ISS space tourism will be nothing more than an elusive dream.
Astronauts have to train to walk in space. This means passengers of the commercial spaceflight are likely to need the same training, even if Energia has to yet to officially confirm this part of the flight.
Like commercial spaceflights of the past, Energia’s plans will definitely generate a buzz. The attention it will create is sure to pique people’s interest. There is a question of how far the interest will go, however. Is it going to be just an interest in the idea or the project itself? Will it be interesting enough to prompt people to book a flight?
Not another idea from the moon
Energia played a role in sending Yuri Gagarin into space, enabling it to build a solid reputation in the industry. This means the company is definitely capable of seeing the project through and succeeding.
With the support of Boeing, a company that has made it clear some time ago their interests and intentions in space-related ventures, Energia shows real promise.
Of course, there are limitations that need to be tackled. Safety, for example, remains a major concern. Building the NEM-2 is nothing like building an airplane, after all. So how can the company design the spacecraft in a way that the tourists remain safe when flying to ISS and back?
If and when Energia manages to pull the project off, the commercial spaceflight will be available for tourists by 2019.
With little time between now and then, people who are interested to join the flight should start to save their pennies (gold bouillon) for the cost of a spaceflight ticket.
The much anticipated inaugural launch of the first Falcon Heavy, from rocket builder startup SpaceX, is today and many people are excited of its outcome. The time of launch is at 1:30PM EST from Launch Pad 39A at Cape Canaveral.
The weather is looking good so far and forecasters have predicted favorable conditions up to 80-percent. SpaceX’s renowned founder Elon Musk has told the media at a prelaunch conference last Monday that he is as at peace because he knows they’ve done everything they could to make the launch successful.
He said, ‘I am sure we have done everything we could do to maximize the chances of success for this mission. Once you have done everything you can think of, if it still goes wrong, there is not much more you could have done.”
So even if the mission fails, SpaceX will still be able to gather a lot of relevant data that they can use for future missions.
On that note, the Hawthorne-based rocket builder is also seeking a new funding of $5 million from the state fund of Texas. The fund will be used to build a commercial spaceport in Brownsville, Texas so that the company can expand its launch facility in Boca Chica beach, located outside of Brownsville.
Founded by the genius entrepreneur Elon Musk, the company is aiming to offer space travel to the mainstream by lessening the cost and facilitating human habitation of Mars, when everything is in place. A design center for Elon Musk’s other record breaking company, Tesla Inc. also operates in Hawthorne. He has predicted that they can launch rockets by the end of 2016 and will be able to invest around $100 million at the site, provided their missions are successful. However, his prediction fell short and their self-ultimatum was moved to the end of 2018 at the least.
Although $15.3 million has already been set aside as state funding, less than $3 million has been spent so far and the company has even returned a small portion of the pledged funds. This is because SpaceX was not able to meet its hiring goals due to the project’s delay in keeping up with its intended timetable.
County Judge Eddie Trevino Jr. has said that at the request of SpaceX, the Cameron County Spaceport Development Corp. applied for the $5 million state fund in behalf of the company. A state economic development fund, the Spaceport Trust Fund will be the source of new money for the said project of SpaceX.
The application is currently in review by Gov. Greg Abbott’s economic development and tourism division. Once approved, we hope that the company will not further suffer delays especially if the Falcon Heavy launch will succeed today.
With a launcher and a reusable spaceplane under development, more people will be sent to space for space tourism in the near future.
The European Space Agency (ESA) has poured in 89.7 million euros ($106.7 million) to jumpstart the development of a new launcher and spaceplane. The former will be a newly advanced iteration of the Vega launcher that will be called Vega E (Vega Evolution), while the latter is a spaceplane demonstrator that will succeed the one that flew in 2015.
The Vega E and Space Rider contracts, according to manufacturer Avio, are both the first tranche for their overall development.
Both Avio and Thales Alenia Space Italy of Italy’s space industry will lead consortiums for both space-designed transportation.
The 89.7 million euros is split between Vega E and Space Rider at 53 million euros and 36.7 million euros, respectively.
What You Need to Know about the Vega Evolution
It will be developed along with Vega C, a rocket that is slated to fly its first maiden launch in 2019.
Building both rockets concurrently and simultaneously is made possible with the fact that the Vega E is largely based on the same building blocks that were used on Vega. The only difference is that there are four stages instead of just three.
The upper stage of the Vega E will also be “Europeanized” instead of Ukrainian.
An ESA official said during a briefing with reporters that the reason for bifurcation is due to the agency’s inability to meet both short term and long term goals of just one rocket.
As a solution, the agency decided to increase the amount of payload that the Vega can carry into orbit. This is according to the ESA’s Space Transportation Development programs manager for the Vega and Space Rider Giorgio Tumino.
The current iteration of Vega is 800 kilograms less than the lift capacity to low Earth orbit of Vega C which is at 2,300 kilograms.
The Vega today also uses the Ukraine-supplied Attitude and Vernier Upper Module (AVUM) that, Tumino said, will be “Europeanized” as part of ESA’s objective. But because developing the upper stage engine can take up to four years, the Vega will continue to use AVUM until the agency can “Europeanize what is not European”.
With the new Vega E, AVUM and Zefiro-9 third stage will be replaced with something more environmentally friendly. The fuel will be based on liquid oxygen and methane and not UDMH (bipropellant with unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine), while the oxidant will be NTO (nitrogen tetroxide).
With the ability to reignite more often, the new upper stage will also make it possible to perform more orbital maneuvers.
What You Need to Know about the Space Rider
In a statement, Donato Amoroso, CEO of Thales Alenia Space Italy, said that Space Rider will pave the way to many challenging applications, “including reusable stages, point-to-point flights, spaceplanes and even space tourism.”
The spaceplane will use the technology found from ESA’s Intermediate Experimental Vehicle (IXV) and will be able to lift 800 kilograms to LEO for missions that will run for up to a couple of months.
One remarkable difference with the new vehicle is that it is designed to land on the ground.
Thales Alenia Space has been tasked to build the reentry module of the Space Rider based on the IXV.
STS-135 was the last mission of the American Space Shuttle program. Its launch on July 8, 2011 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida marked the beginning of the end of 30 years of the US manned space flight program. Since then, astronauts have been riding Russian rockets for International Space Station (ISS) trips.
In 2014, the Commercial Crew Development program of NASA raised the possibility of sending back astronauts to the ISS on an American spacecraft once again. The program rewarded contracts to both SpaceX and Boeing to build a craft that could do as such.
Both SpaceX and Boeing set a target date of 2017, but development proved to be more difficult than expected. As such, launch was pushed back to 2018.
SpaceX, headed by Elon Musk, has been launching cargo spacecrafts to transport supplies to the ISS. But the addition of people proved “way more difficult” and that the company needs to get things right.
Despite setbacks, both companies are on track to meet the latest projected 2018 launch. And with that date rapidly approaching, Musk finally unveiled what astronauts would be wearing aboard the Crew Dragon, SpaceX’s craft, on his Instagram in August.
The SpaceX Suit
The first image Musk shared on social media showed an astronaut wearing the suit, with the helmet and the shoulder area visible. SpaceX opted for the traditional white for its spacesuit but this time, with a sleeker look.
Musk didn’t share much about the suit on his Instagram and promised more in the coming days. He, however, did share an important detail: the suit works.
Musk said the suit has “already tested to double vacuum pressure.” The suits will be worn by astronauts during the flight to the ISS. Since they are pressure suits, they aren’t meant for spacewalks. The suit is meant to keep passengers alive until they can get to safety in case the capsule depressurizes.
A few days after he shared to SpaceX suit, Musk unveiled a second one, this time a full-body shot next to the Crew Dragon. More details about the suit can be seen, including the design of the gloves and the boots. The pants feature flex zones, which provides mobility when bending while the back portion looks to be padded to provide comfort while seated. The boots also look optimized for mobility.
Apart from the photo shared through Instagram, Musk hasn’t shared much about the spacesuits astronauts will be wearing.
“Race” with Boeing
Boeing is also developing its own spacecraft capable of carrying astronauts to the ISS. The CST-100 Starliner is also on course for a 2018 launch, an unmanned flight in June and a crewed flight in August.
The company already unveiled the spacesuits astronauts will be wearing on board their craft in January. They opted for blue and with the suit bearing features such as touchscreen-friendly gloves. The suit is also designed to be worn from the back, rather than being put on like traditional clothes.
Musk hasn’t revealed intricate details about the suits for Crew Dragon astronauts but it is expected to have similar or even better ease-of-use features.
Buzz Aldrin was the second man to walk on the moon and he has plans for humans to inhabit the Red Planet. Many believe that humans need to look beyond Earth to survive, and Mars is looked upon as the habitat of choice. But what does Aldrin think about the space tourism plans of rich people such as Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos?
Aldrin on Space Tourism
Aldrin believes that human commercial activities in low-earth orbit, that area where navigation and military satellites are located as is the International Space Station, will be very important. The cost of activities in LEO will be lower than the journey to Mars, but the investment will be significant to Mars missions.
Multihyphenate Elon Musk set up SpaceX, an aerospace manufacturer and space transport services company, in 2002 to reduce space transportation costs and enable the colonization of Mars. Both the Falcon and Dragon line deliver payloads into earth orbit.
Musk announced in February of this year that his company has been contacted by two space tourists who made a significant deposit to go to the moon. SpaceX announced that the tourists will have to begin training and undergo fitness tests to make them flight ready by 2018.
Amazon’s Jeff Bezos also created a company called Blue Origin that will deal with space transport, with plans for a cargo-delivery service to the Moon.
Aldrin clearly appreciates the efforts of both men but he’s much more looking forward to the possibility of humans living on Mars.
Aldrin on Mars
Aldrin is clearly passionate about establishing a human settlement in Mars so much so that he has actually created a plan for it called Cycling Pathways.
The Earth and Mars align every 26 months and travel to Mars should be done during that period. Humans will be transported to the Red Planet on one or two Earth-Mars “Cyclers” with a single launch. Aldrin believes that this model will cost less than the plans outlined by NASA.
Aldrin isn’t much in favor of a one-off mission, but one that continuously cycles between Earth and the Moon, then Earth and Mars. Doing this allows the constant movement of not just people but also equipment and supplies.
Apart from outlining a plan to get to Mars, Aldrin is also raising money through his non-profit ShareSpace Foundation for the education and development of next-generation space innovators who will help secure the habitation of Mars.
Aldrin hopes to get humans on the Red Planet by 2039. The year is significant as it will mark the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, and Aldrin believes that US President Donald Trump should announce a commitment to ensure that it actually happens. Trump signed a NASA funding bill that supports the exploration of Mars in April that set a target date for a manned mission by 2033.
Historical accounts will always recognize Aldrin’s involvement in the lunar landings, but he wants to be remembered as “the man who led the world to Mars.”
Space tourism might have been a mere idea, decades ago, but when American business tycoon, Dennis Tito spent eight days in space in 2001 after paying $20 million, the possibility of ordinary people going to outer space might become a reality soon. In fact, known balloon company, Zero 2 Infinity, has already created a partnership with Sock’M, a Spanish company that manufactures socks.
What makes this partnership out-of-the-ordinary is the reason behind such as collaboration. These two companies might belong to two different industries but they have one goal: to come up with “space socks” to be worn by tourists while on high-altitude balloon flights in near-space.
The special socks will be designed specifically for people who get the chance to explore near-space under the Barcelona-based company’s program known as Bloon. This will offer commercial high-altitude balloon trips to passengers who want to experience this kind of adventure, high up in the air while wearing comfortable and safe socks.
These socks will be made of non-flammable materials to minimize the possibility of the balloon catching fire. Aside from the fabric, these products will also be capable of keeping the feet warm with its thickness.
When in space, there is no gravity at all and without protection, blood on the feet will rush to the head and blood pressure will drop. The thickness of the socks will give ample heat and keep them warm.
Representatives of the sock company said that synthetic fibers, used in other socks, are not ideal for space since these can cause electrostatic sparks. They also added that treating the socks with silver coating or antimicrobial treatment is necessary.
Meanwhile, those who want to own these specially designed socks but do not have plans of going on high-altitude balloon flights can also have the chance to enjoy the feel of these comfortable products. Sock’M will also be offering “Space Socks” to consumers but with cotton material.
In a statement made by representatives of Sock’M, they said that materials used for space socks need to be natural to enhance moisture absorption and should be stretchable. These include natural materials, such as wool, linen or cotton.
Balloon-assisted Launcher Test Flight
As of today, commercial high-altitude balloon trips for passengers are not yet available but Zero 2 Infinity has been very busy to make this a reality for the near future. The company was able to conduct a test flight when it deployed a small satellite launcher using a balloon, a project they it has been developing for four years.
The stratospheric balloon was able to carry the launcher up to around 15 miles, during a test done in March 2017. For its future plans, the company is looking forward to offering space tourism by way of helium balloon flights that have an altitude of up to 22 miles, with passengers onboard.
Meanwhile, Raul Espada, CEO of Sock’M mentioned their company’s intention to change the notion of space tourism only being for people who have lots of expendable cash.
It’s a well-known fact that launching rockets into space is a costly business. However, SpaceX is poised to change this through the reusable rocket that it has developed and successfully re-launched.
The company, which was founded by tech entrepreneur Elon Musk in 2002, launched the recycled Falcon 9 rocket in March 30, 2017. The rocket had already flown in April 2016, when it was used to send supplies to the International Space Station. After its supply mission last year, the Falcon 9 successfully landed on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.
This time, on its second launch, the booster was used to carry a satellite for Luxembourg-based telecommunications company SES. Once it completed its mission, it performed another successful landing on the drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” in the Atlantic. This marked the first time in history that a space rocket was successfully used more than once and came back secure and unharmed, ready for another use.
This is an excellent feather in the cap for SpaceX, which has suffered highly publicized setbacks over the years as it strove to perfect the technique of recovering used rockets. It also brings the company closer to its goal of launching its first space tourism mission in 2018, although it admittedly has to pass numerous hurdles before this can happen.
However, it’s important to note that this achievement is not just for SpaceX — it’s also a huge step forward for the entire aerospace industry. SpaceX founder Elon Musk points out that this is “ultimately a huge revolution in spaceflight”, comparing it to how people can enjoy dependable commercial airplanes instead of junking them after each flight. He states that the reusability of SpaceX’s rockets can “inform the decisions of other space organizations” and push them to go down the same path in order to stay competitive.
Having reusable boosters will significantly lower their manufacturing cost, which is now at around $60 million. Musk reveals that they might ultimately develop rockets that can be reused hundreds of times, which will further make them less expensive to build. When this happens, space travel and tourism will become cheaper and more available even to ordinary folks.
Musk also points out that future rockets might be designed and built in a way that they can be relaunched within 24 hours after landing. This time frame will considerably cut down the waiting time in space travel and allow companies to run several flights in a day.
Of course, reusable rockets solve one of the biggest dilemmas in space tourism: ensuring that shuttles can take off from the place where they have landed. Right now, this is virtually impossible to do unless shuttles carry another rocket for the return trip or humans build facilities to manufacture boosters on the destination planet/s.
There’s no need to do any of these once relaunchable rockets are developed — if a spacecraft lands on Mars, for instance, it can simply reuse its existing boosters to get back to earth. Through this, SpaceX CEO Gwynne Shotwell assures that people don’t have to worry a “one-way trip to Mars” and that “whoever we take can come back”.
The S.P. Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation (RSC) or Energia in Russia, in partnership with Space Adventures in the US, had made the latest bid to expand the space tourism industry with a trip into the moon’s orbit. Basically, this would be an 8-person expedition on an upgraded Soyuz spacecraft, with ticket prices starting at $150 million per person.
A spokesperson from Space Adventures said that their company has already attracted a number of interests for the flight around the moon, with the first departure planned to be commenced in 2020. He stated, “We are considering eight potential candidates, which are ready to pay for such an expedition. There is a Japanese family among them, for instance…Once we have a critical mass of confirmed applications for a trip around the Moon, we will be able to begin large-scale work.” Among the people who have expressed interest in booking such a trip also include filmmaker James Cameron.
Stating his opinion on the project, general director of Energia, Vladimir Solntsev, said, “We have a preliminary design for upgrading the Soyuz spacecraft, which was conceived with the possibility of organizing a Moon expedition in mind. The upgraded Soyuz will be able to carry out a short flight to the Moon, which will allow it to circle the Earth’s satellite.”
The Soyuz spacecraft was first designed by Russia in the 1960’s during the Soviet Union’s race for the moon, and then went on to become the longest-serving and most-used spacecraft in the world. It was the first spacecraft that offered tourists flights to the International Space Station (ISS). However, it was decommissioned by NASA in 2010, making it only available for shuttling astronauts and supplies to and from the ISS, which meant that the space shuttle was no longer available for transporting tourists to the station.
However, there are now a number of space tourism companies designing their own spacecraft to try and corner the niche market, such as KosmoKurs (another Russian company) that has been licensed by Roscosmos to ferry tourists into low Earth orbit for 15 minutes at a price of $200,000-$250,000, using a capsule that accommodates 1 pilot and 6 passengers and allows them to experience minutes of zero gravity. As you may have already know, Virgin Galatic in the US has also been testing their SpaceShipTwo spacecraft that is planned to take tourists on suborbital flights costing $250,000 for each of its passengers.
Another project is the Blue Origin by Jeff Bezos who planned to start providing short space tourist trips in 2018 if testing on its New Shepard launch vehicle goes well. And of course, the SpaceX project by Elon Musk has been ferrying astronauts to the ISS for years, though it is yet to show interest in the space tourism business for the moon, but amazingly, the company has made headlines when they announced plans to start colonizing Mars in 2018.
However, plans to take tourists to space are still subject to change, considering that NASA is planning to sell off the ISS to a commercial partner who would take over responsibilities for the station.
Are you fond of getting to new places on a tour with friends or family? How about embarking on a space tour under the spacecraft developed by the Bigelow Aerospace? Perhaps a few years from now, they’re going to allow trips to outer space just like what’s being shown on the movies. But if you are asked for your opinion to travel this weekend, what will be your expression?
It’s truly mind-blowing just to imagine you’re being launched into space with a bunch of people along with you as tourists. Would you experience the same thing as what you see on TV? Well, there’s only one way to find out and you’ll be experiencing it along with other travelers into a space trip.
Surely, you should have some questions regarding this very bold attempt at bringing groups of people to roam around the moon or even Mars. Well, to take you away from confusion, here are a few facts that you can ponder upon.
The B330 Space Habitat
Bigelow Aerospace has been developing several inflatable space habitats. This development was done privately with its design taken from the habitat concept of the TransHab of NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration). The B330 will be your transportation as it can carry a number of people. The name was taken from its size in cubic meters which reaches up to 330.
It can support research on zero-gravity including manufacturing processes and scientific missions. The concept of space tourism was taken from this model because it has potential. Although it is only designed for major scientific and industrial purposes it has shown promise because of its huge capacity and reliability.
Major Features of the Craft
Huge Capacity. The B330 is said to have expandable modules that will provide more living spaces as compared with traditional modules. In fact, according to Bigelow Aerospace, their space habitat can offer more than 210% of habitable space. The good thing is that it only allows 33% increase in mass for that matter.
Radiation Protection Guaranteed. The manufacturer also claims that it can provide radiation protection that can be comparable to ballistic protection that is excellent for the International Space Station.
Excellent Heat Dissipation. The habitat is able to provide excellent heat dissipation due to its dual solar arrays combined with 2 thermal radiator arrays. It also has an excellent crew support that reaches up to 6 astronauts.
Comfortable Spacecraft Environment. The spacecraft has been designed to have a zero-g toilet that allows solid and liquid waste disposal. Aside from that, it has some semi-private berths available for crew members. Moreover, it will have exercise equipment, food storage, lighting, and personal hygiene stations.
Bigelow Aerospace has already disclosed their technology to the news media and they have now undergone validation testing for the B330 in low Earth orbits in the presence of 2 subscale spacecraft. Most of the design was taken from the technology features of NASA space stations.
It is scheduled to launch by 2020 with its carrier rocket namely Atlas V. It will have a crew of six astronauts to facilitate the travel for tourists. Currently, the mission status of the space habitat is still in its developmental stage.
You’re probably no stranger to Virgin Galactic’s spaceflight project, “the world’s first commercial space line”, complete with its own spaceport.
If you don’t know what that is, then here’s an overview.
It is Virgin Galactic’s way of ensuring the rest of the world has an opportunity to travel to space, adding more to the 522 number of people who were able to do so. At present, space travel is not open to ordinary citizens, and would require extensive training. Although astronaut training is still involved, you don’t need to work in NASA to fly to outer space. It’s a great opportunity to start off space tourism. But be ready to pay skyrocketing fare.
Because the flight is marketed as similar to airline travel, this begs the question: what would you wear during the flight? You won’t be flying on a spaceship, after all, so an astronaut suit is out of the question. Wearing the suit is not fashionable either, much less light and convenient. But due to gravity and atmospheric conditions, wearing regular clothes is even more out of the question.
In fact, the suits being developed incorporates Nomex, which is a meta aramid polymer that is flame and heat-resistant. The use of technical fabrics tells so much about what makes a spacesuit different from regular clothing.
Although spaceflight suits for passengers are still in the making, the functional clothing and accessories designed for Virgin Galactic’s astronauts, pilots and operations team would give you a good idea of what you could be wearing during your flight to space.
Virgin Galactic is working in partnership with fashion brand Y-3 to create outfit for the technical team. A pioneer in sportswear, the fashion company welcomed the partnership as a challenge that will carry the brand into the future.
“We are fascinated by innovation and are continually looking to evolve”, said Lawrence Midwood, Y-3 Senior Design Director.
The company revealed prototypes of the suit and boots, which is a product of an ongoing collaboration between designer Yohji Yamamoto and Adidas. The suit looks similar to the inner suit that astronauts use, but in sleek, all-black style. It incorporates technical fabrics into its design, taking into account the specific needs of a pilot corps.
According to Adam Wells, Head of Design in Virgin Galactic, “evolution into a fully functioning spaceline presents unprecedented opportunities to create original designs in support of our unique customer service”.
The prototypes are set to be worn during flight test program scheduled in the following months to determine what the final uniforms would be like.
“The pilot flight-suit prototype that we have developed truly represents both of our brands and, more importantly, will ensure comfort, functionality and support for the pilots of the world’s first commercial space flights,” Midwood added.
Space tourists for the first commercial spaceflight have already been given custom jackets. But images of the garments which passengers would be using are still under wraps.
Think you would look great in an all-black suit? You might want to ask beforehand if you can accessorize it.
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