California’s Orbital Assembly Corporation reckons it will soon have the solar system’s first luxury space hotel open in orbit, offering spacewalks, Beyonce concerts and fine dining to space tourists at US$5 million for three and a half days.
The company plans to take advantage of plummeting space launch costs – which SpaceX’s Starship could bring down to a few hundred dollars a kilogram – to build a giant circular space station, some 700 feet (212 m) in diameter, assembled in orbit by semi-autonomous and remote controlled robots. A hub-and-spoke wheel design similar to the ones Wernher Von Braun wrote about in the 1950s, the Voyager Space Station (VSS) would rotate slowly, at one and a quarter revolutions per minute, to provide artificial gravity about as strong as the moon’s.
The VSS plans to accommodate around 100 crew, as well as 300 visitors – be they tourists, business travelers, scientists, astronauts just passing through or long-term residents. It would be powered by solar and supplied from Earth.
And yes, this will be no ISS; the Orbital Assembly team is going for the space equivalent of luxury. “Fundamentally, Voyager is a spacecraft,” said Orbital CTO Dr. Tom Spilker during a recent fundraising presentation, “but not like any that have come before it. We don’t want the Voyager experience to be like being in an attack submarine… We’re architecting for comfort, especially for first-time tourists with no astronaut training.”