Most Influential Projects 2021

30 Voyager Station

Voyager Station Image Large

For taking space tourism closer to reality with an out-of-this-world luxury hotel in low Earth orbit

Even before billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos headed out on their private space junkets in July, the next dimension of space tourism was already underway: a high-end hotel accommodating travelers making low orbit more than a day trip. Once complete, the Voyager Station would be the first commercial space station operating with artificial gravity and the largest human-made structure in space.

Taking one small step for space tourism, Orbital Assembly Corp. unveiled plans in February to construct a smaller, ground-based assembly system on Earth. But the real deal—a three-ring station—will be built in orbit using automation and telerobotics.

Voyager Station image 1

"We’re learning and drawing on all the technology and research done by NASA and its international partners," said Tim Alatorre, co-founder and COO of Orbital Assembly. The station will feature 125,000 square feet (11,600 square meters) of habitable space, enough to accommodate up to 440 guests in 24 pressurized modules. Given the cutting-edge nature of the project, the station will be equipped with 44 emergency return vehicles with automated flight controls. The team behind the project—NASA veterans, pilots, engineers and architects—aims to pull in casual space travelers with the swanky digs (and a reported US$5 million price tag for a three-day trip), while also fostering partnerships with businesses, manufacturers and national space agencies conducting low-gravity research.

Voyager Station image 1

The timeline is ambitious. In June, Orbital unveiled the robotic fabricator that will help the team build in space. And a 2023 mission aims to put a robot in space to build a ring truss, with construction of the hotel beginning by 2025. With the company aiming to welcome guests as early as 2027, the project could mark a turning point in the space economy that Bank of America predicts could reach US$1.4 trillion by 2030.