In April 2018, at the Space 2.0 Summit, an aerospace convention in San Jose, California, Orion Span announced that its Aurora Station space hotel will launch by 2021. The first guests to the modular station are slated for 2022. In the future, the space-tech startup also envisions renting modules in the station to government agencies or those who’d like a condo in the stars.
"We developed Aurora Station to provide a turnkey destination in space. Upon launch, Aurora Station goes into service immediately, bringing travelers into space quicker and at a lower price point than ever seen before, while still providing an unforgettable experience," Orion Span CEO Frank Bunger said.
Online deposits can now be placed online for $80,000, and they are refundable. A vacation on the station will cost $9.5 million per person for a 12-day experience. The new resort will orbit Earth about 200 miles above the surface in Low Earth Orbit, or LEO.
"We're not selling a hey-let's-go-to-the-beach equivalent in space. We're selling the experience of being an astronaut," Bunger told Bloomberg.
Aurora Station, which is currently being built in Houston, is divided into two-person suites. Six people will be aboard – four guests and two crewmembers, who will probably have professional astronaut experience. Guests can expect many of the conditions that astronauts encounter, including zero gravity and free-floating through the about 43-foot long hotel that has a pressurized volume of 5,650 cubic feet. In comparison, the International Space Station is about 357 feet long and has an internal pressurized volume of 32,333 cubic feet, similar to that of a Boeing 747. Rather than spending the typical 24 months in preflight preparations, Orion Span’s customers will be trained in three months, with portions of the process occurring online and on the station itself.
Visitors will be able to take part in space experiments aboard the vessel like growing food, which they can take home with them. They will orbit the Earth every 90 minutes and see about 16 sunrises and sunsets daily. Appropriate to the craft's name, the trip will also provide views of northern and southern auroras – colorful natural light displays caused by electrons colliding with the atmosphere. High-speed wireless will enable text-based and livestreaming communication with Earth. Virtual reality experiences will be available on what is being called a “holodeck,” a term borrowed from the popular sci-fi series, “Star Trek.”
As well as advertising Aurora Station as the first luxury hotel in space, Orion Span’s press release also calls it the “first fully modular space station” and envisions that it will have many uses beyond vacations. For example, Orion Span may provide chartered flights to space agencies that want to host zero-gravity research or companies interested in space manufacturing. The first condos in space might also be located on this station, which could be resided in, visited or sublet by owners.
“Our architecture is such that we can easily add capacity, enabling us to grow with market demand like a city growing skyward on Earth,” Bunger said.
Space tourism is a blossoming industry. Virginia-based space tourism company Space Adventures offered public flights to the ISS at the turn of the millennia for $20 to 40 million, and seven people participated. Axiom Space and Virgin Galactic have also announced plans to provide recreational space trips in the next few years.