A short time ago we would have talked about science fiction, but today it is reality. We are talking about space tourism, a market on which more than two names are appearing.
But how much will these trips cost? This will depend on the technological capabilities of each company. Virgin Galactic and SpaceX plan to make the first trip to space with private paying passengers in 2021.
For example, it will depend on how long you stay in orbit, but especially if it is suborbital or orbital space. This is where the biggest difference lies, also in terms of costs, but also in experience and therefore in the risk of being a space tourist. The suborbital reaches an altitude of about 100 kilometers and gives passengers a few minutes in space, while orbital missions can go over 400 kilometers and spend days or even more than a week in space.
A recent UBS report estimated that space tourism, suborbital and orbital combined, will have a potential market value of $ 3 billion by 2030. According to Northern Sky Research, the suborbital market will be worth $ 2.8 billion. with $ 10.4 billion in total revenue over the next decade, while the orbital market will be around $ 610 million, with $ 3.6 billion in total revenue over the next decade.
What are the companies that compete in this market? They are two and compete in suborbital tourism. We find the Virgin Galactic of the magnate Richard Branson, which last year also debuted on the public market (SPCE), and the Blue Origin, of Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon).
To date, Virgin Galactic has sold its voyages to approximately 600 passengers, priced between $ 200,000 and $ 250,000 each. Blue Origin has not yet communicated the price but has stated that they will be comparable to those of the competition.
Virgin Galactic carried out two test flights with people on board, these are company employees who traveled together with four pilots.
Two more test flights are planned before founder Richard Branson takes part in the first flight. This is currently scheduled for the first quarter of 2021: from that moment on, Virgin Galactic’s commercial service can be considered officially launched. Blue Origin, on the other hand, has not yet flown with passengers. However, his New Shepard spacecraft has completed 12 missions in recent years and another 3/4 test missions will be needed before traveling with people on board. Passengers who they will want to take part in the flight, according to Virgin Galactic, they will have to go through three days of training first. Blue Origin instead provides a one-day workout.
These space flights are promoted as luxury experiences and in terms of promotion both the two companies are exclusively targeting a niche of people with very high net worth. “Globally, we think around 2 million people can experience it in the next few years at this price. Over time, we will be able to reduce that price and at that point the market will explode. That’s 10 times that, with 40 million people, ”, Virgin Galactic chief space officer George Whitesides said last year.
According to a survey conducted by Cowen – an American multinational independent investment bank – suborbital flights have a total addressable market of about 2.4 million people among people with net worth of over $ 5 million. UBS surveyed more than 6,000 high net worth individuals especially on flights with Virgin Galactic. About 20% of UBS respondents said they are likely to “purchase a ticket on a spacecraft within 1 year” of the company’s regular flights starting. According to Virgin Galactic estimates, there are about 1.78 million people with net worth in excess of $ 10 million, but there are about double that with net worth between $ 5 million and $ 10 million and about 37, 1 million people with net worth between $ 1 million and $ 5 million.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX, with its Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule, was the first to enter orbital tourism. Last summer, SpaceX successfully made the first round trip with two NASA astronauts aboard its spacecraft. SpaceX’s launch system is similar to that of Blue Origin, but with a more powerful rocket and a larger capsule. His Crew Dragon spacecraft is built to hold up to seven passengers and sits atop the company’s 230-foot-tall Falcon 9 rocket. NASA astronauts on the recent Demo-2 mission described driving in the SpaceX capsule as “a little smoother” than the Space Shuttles of the past, which were “a little rougher, at least initially”.
Private missions aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon will last approximately 10 days and will be worth $ 50 million per person. To these must then be added the costs to be paid to NASA (approximately $ 350,000, or $ 35,000 per night per person) which will provide its assistance and services, essential for the spacecraft to reach the International Space Station.
But Crew Dragon isn’t the only option for private passengers who want to reach the ISS in the coming years. The Boeing-designed Starliner capsule carries up to seven passengers. Boeing traveling with four astronauts is looking to sell at least one of the three available seats.