Space Hotels Could Be the Key to Unlocking the Final Frontier

Orbital Assembly Corp. VP explains how its artificial gravity technology will help to create a space tourism industry that will eventually be accessible to most consumers.
Voyager Station from Orbital Assembly

In March of 2021, Orbital Assembly Corp. made headlines when CNN ran a story discussing the company’s plans to create the first space hotel by 2027.

“While the idea of space travel and tourism has been rolling around in the human consciousness for hundreds of years, it’s only been in the last few years that it has really become a possibility,” says Orbital Assembly’s Vice President of Habitation Tim Alatorre.

According to Alatorre, to make space tourism a reality, there are three important requirements. First, there must be a low cost to transporting people and cargo into orbit. Second, technology needs to be in place to keep people healthy for long periods of time while in space. Third, there must be someone willing to organize the capital and resources to make it happen.

The International Space Station, which began its operational life in 2000, is a perfect example of what happens when these three requirements aren’t met, Alatorre explains. The ISS proved that humans could live in space long-term, and by all accounts should have begun the era of space travel and tourism for the masses. But over its 15-year life span, the cost to orbit peaked at $60,000 per kg (up from the historical average of $8,000 per kg) and data proved that the microgravity used on the ISS wreaks havoc on human physiology. Plus, there were no organizations working to make Earth orbit accessible to the public on a meaningful scale.

Space Hotel Bedroom

Of course, technology always improves with time, and in 2016, SpaceX was able to not only demonstrate that rocket reusability was feasible, but also that launch costs could be as low as $3,000 per kg to orbit, Alatorre notes. With the first requirement for space tourism now fulfilled, the door now opened to private development companies to work out how to keep humans healthy while in orbit.

This is where the Orbital Assembly Corp. has come into play.

“We are developing the technology to provide artificial gravity on orbit allowing humans to live, work, and thrive in space. Not just survive, but thrive,” Alatorre says.

The Need for Infrastructure in Space

According to Orbital Assembly’s research, large numbers of people want to travel to space, and a significant amount of people want to live off-planet.

For people to live and not just visit, there needs to be infrastructure: financially feasible and accessible transportation; sustainable water and food supplies; energy and oxygen; recreation, entertainment, and jobs,” Alatorre says.

But to have this large-scale infrastructure, there already needs to be large numbers of people in space. So how do you get large numbers of people in space to create the infrastructure so that large numbers of people can live and visit in space? It might feel like a riddle, but to Orbital Assembly, opening a hotel provides the answer.

“To have people be healthy in space for long periods of time there needs to be a certain level of artificial gravity,” she explains. “Opening a facility, like a hotel, provides a commercial application to fast track scaling up the development of this infrastructure. We believe that increasing the number of people living in space is critical to the future of humanity. And we believe that a hotel in space can be profitable.”

Space Hotel Bar

Of course, the first lucky few to vacation in space won’t be the average American consumer. Unsurprisingly, it will be ultra-high net worth individuals who can provide the capital to the company necessary to help create the technology that will provide an Earth-like experience (gravity, food, oxygen, etc.) while in space.

But, and this is a good but, the company’s station architecture is deliberately created to be modular for rapid expansion, Alatorre says. As demand grows, the hotel will expand to accommodate and the cost per trip will fall as well, allowing a more diverse group of tourists to visit.

A Space Vacation Snapshot

So, what might a space vacation look like?

Tourists will still need to pack their bags, fill out documentation and purchase a ticket. The first few visitors will travel in small crews of up to seven, but as time progresses, the company anticipates it could eventually take as many as 100 tourists into space at any one time. While they wait to rendezvous with the space station, which could take several hours to a couple days depending on the launch provider and mission profile, tourists will have the classic astronaut experience.

After docking, passengers will eventually travel down passageways leading to the outer rim of the space station.

As they move outwards, they will start to feel a gradual increase in gravity pulling them onward. At first it will be barely noticeable but by the time they reach the bottom they will be able to stand and walk on the floor,” Alatorre says.

Then comes check-in and orientation. Guests will receive room assignments and be given a tour of the station and its amenities. And just like guests need some time to get used to a new time zone or altitude, space tourists will need time to acclimate to the station’s artificial gravity which may cause a few side effects such as dizziness and motion sickness.

In addition to a variety of recreational activities, guests will be able to enjoy a “normal” meal – no sucking water or food from a pouch. Also, as an important side note, artificial gravity allows the sinus passages to function normally so that one can smell and taste food normally – something that isn’t possible with a microgravity environment.

When it comes time to check-out, Orbital Assembly hopes that guests will have had an experience that “changed them for the better.”


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