Space tourism is ready for takeoff. And Gateway Foundation and Orbital Assembly Corp. (OAC) are trying to make sure amateur astronauts and government researchers alike have a nice place to stay in what’s billed as the first space hotel. Construction on the 538,000-square-foot (50,000-square-meter) Voyager Station—complete with varying levels of artificial gravity—is slated to begin as early as 2025.
The team behind the project—NASA veterans, pilots, engineers and architects—aims to pull in casual space travelers with the swanky digs, while also fostering partnerships with businesses, manufacturers and national space agencies conducting low-gravity research.
“What we build in low Earth orbit and then further out will forever change how we think about space because many of us will get a chance to go—either as tourists or workers,” John Blincow, president of the Gateway Foundation and CEO of OAC, said in an online video. “Space will no longer be a far-off place, but instead, a destination that is attainable.”
The three-ring Voyager Station—which will rank as the largest human-made structure in space—will be constructed piecemeal in orbit using automation and telerobotics from the inside out. And by applying lessons learned and technology from the International Space Station build, the team means to cuts costs and development time. The first phase of the project calls for construction of a smaller, ground-based prototype to test the technology here on Earth. And before anyone books a room, the team will also need to prove out its artificial gravity concept, which it plans to test with a simulator built, assembled and operating in low orbit within the next few years.
Voyager Station will feature 124,000 square feet (11,600 square meters) of habitable space, enough to accommodate about 440 guests. A habitation ring will feature 24 pressurized modules where guests can dine, entertain and take in some impressive views. There will also be government-owned modules used for scientific research, training and staging facilities. And given the cutting-edge nature of the project, the station will be equipped with 44 emergency return vehicles with automated flight controls.
With the company aiming to welcome the station’s first guests as early as 2027, the project could mark a turning point for the already booming space market. Despite the global economic downturn spurred by COVID, investments in space companies hit a record US$8.9 billion in 2020. And by 2030, Bank of America projects, the space economy will launch into a US$1.4 trillion market.