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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Inside the space hotel expected to be open for business in 2025

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We may be able to visit space in the not-too-distant future.  The reason being that Orbital Assembly Corporation have plans to design and built a Voyager Station and a Pioneer Station in space.  We may all get the chance to live for a while among the stars as this could be the future of travel. Perhaps you’ll even be able to roll the dice, and win yourself some black jack real money in space!

The company, based in the United States has been working on the concept and design of the space hotel since 2019.  The Gateway Foundation first premiered the concept as the Von Braun Station which comprises several modules, connected via elevator shafts and form a rotating wheel that will orbit the earth.   However, Orbital Assembly Corporation is now running the project and the links with Gateway have been severed.

The aim now is to launch two space stations that will have accommodation for tourists. Orbital Assembly renamed the original design and it became – Voyager Station.  The plan is to have it up and running by 2027 and it is being designed to house 400 people. The Pioneer Station, the new concept could be ready and functioning in just three years and accommodate 28 people. According to Orbital Assembly the aim is to “run a space ‘business park’, home to offices as well as tourists.”

Visiting space is becoming a reality

And the idea of space as a tourist destination is becoming more of a possibility. Billionaire, Richard Branson, and owner of Virgin launched his Virgin Galactic offering a 90- minute round trip into space and home again.   And then we have William Shatner, well-known actor from Star Trek who launched into space last October aboard a Blue Origin spacecraft.

But the price tag associated with any form of space trip is still not something that most people are able or willing to spend in order to blast into space. Orbital Assembly’s chief operating officer, Tim Alatorre thinks this will change as space tourism becomes more popular.   He says, “The goal has always been to make it possible for large amounts of people to live, work and thrive in space.”

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Just like home

It is expected that the space stations will have office space as well as tourist accommodation. Being smaller, the Pioneer Station makes the possibility of it happening sooner more likely. Alatorre says “It’s going to get us the opportunity to have people start to experience space on a larger scale, faster.”

On both Pioneer Station and Voyager Station, there will be office and research facilities for rent. For Alatorre this is a “win-win” situation as many of Orbital Assembly’s short- term goals are dependent on funding.

Both these stations are expected to rotate around the earth.  Alatorre explains it thus: ‘The station rotates, pushing the contents of the station out to the perimeter of the station, much in the way that you can spin a bucket of water – the water pushes out into the bucket and stays in place. Near the center of the station there would be no artificial gravity, but as you move down the outside of the station, the feeling of gravity increases.”    He further explains that “As Pioneer Station will be smaller, its gravity level would be different.”  He says it will still be possible to enjoy the “comforts’ of artificial gravity like eating while sitting down and taking a shower.  However, spaces with less gravity do mean the possibility of having more fun!

It is expected that both these space stations will resemble a luxury hotel that you can experience here on earth.   Alatorre who is coming from an architectural background, said the Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey is “almost a blueprint of what not to do”.  He goes on to explain: “I think the goal of Staley Kubrick was to highlight the divide between technology and humanity and so, purposefully, he made the stations and the ships very sterile and clean and alien.”

The original name, Von Braun Station, was based on designs, some 60 years old, by an aerospace engineer, Wernher von Braun who while in Germany had been involved in the Nazi rocket development program. Therefore, choosing this name was rather controversial.   But John Blincow, the former CEO of Orbital Assembly says “The station is not really about him. It’s based on his design, and we like his contributions towards science and space.” Blincow is no longer with the company but said “Voyager Station is so much more than that.  It is the stuff in the future. And we want a name that doesn’t have those attachments to it.”

Only for the rich?

Hopping into space is becoming more and more commonplace.  We now have organized trips being offered by Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin and SpaceX, Elon Musk’s company.

Alatorre says his company has been in touch with everybody in the industry in order to collaborate.  He says “The one thing that all of these companies are missing is the destination, right? It’s kind of like if you want to go and see the Grand Canyon and you drive past it and come right back home.”

Alatorre says that tourists have already been hosted at the International Space Station. But he sees Orbital Assembly’s space hotels being something different.   “It’s not going to be like you’re going to a factory or you’re going to a research facility.  Instead, it should feel like a sci-fi dream.  There are not wires everywhere, it’s a comfortable space where you feel at home.”

With so much money being spent on these projects there is a lot of criticism that this money should be spent on projects here on earth.   He argues that “Our environment isn’t just earth, it’s the entire solar system. And there are so many resources out there, as we start to utilize and capitalize on those resources that are going to change and improve the standard of living here on Earth.”  He also went on to say that “We’re doing everything we can to make space accessible to everyone, not just the wealthy.”

A former NASA astronaut, Jeffrey A. Hoffman who now works in Aeronautics and Astronautics said, “I am excited about the idea 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.”   He went on to say that “When the word gets back and these initial travelers tell their tales, you’re not going to be able to keep people away.”

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