Take a look at the controversial space hotel that could open in 2025
Waking up in an expensive hotel room with a view of the solar system could be the future of travel if space company Orbital Assembly has anything to say about it.
The company plans to open two new space stations with tourist accommodations by 2025.
The US-based company has unveiled new information and concepts for its space hotel idea, for which designs have been orbiting the tourism industry since 2019.
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This futuristic concept consists of several modules connected by elevator shafts forming a rotating wheel that orbits the Earth.
Space company Orbital Assembly has plans to open two new space stations with tourist accommodations by 2025. Credit: Orbital Assembly
It was originally premiered by the California company Gateway Foundation – and was then called the Von Braun Station.
Orbital Assembly Corporation, a space construction company with severed ties with Gateway, now oversees the project.
Orbital Assembly now aims to launch not one but two space stations with tourist accommodations.
Voyager Station, the renamed original design, is now slated to seat 400 people and is set to open in 2027.
The new concept Pioneer Station, which can accommodate 28 people, could be operational in just three years.
The goal, Orbital Assembly says, is to run a “business park” space for offices and tourists.
Space tourism seems closer than ever before — in the past year, billionaire Virgin founder Richard Branson rocketed into suborbital space with his company Virgin Galactic.
Star Trek actor William Shatner also became the oldest person in space thanks to a foray with Blue Origin.
But there’s still a pretty unbelievable cost to any space journey, making it hard for many of us to imagine spending our annual leave out of this world.
Tim Alatorre, chief operating officer of Orbital Assembly, believes this barrier will disappear as space tourism takes off.
“The goal has always been to make it possible for large numbers of people to live, work and thrive in space,” Alatorre says.
A home away from home
Alatorre says the appeal of the new Pioneer Station concept is that its smaller scale makes it more feasible.
“It allows us to let people experience space on a larger scale and faster,” he said.
Office space and research facilities will also be available to rent at both Pioneer Station and Voyager Station.
Alatorre said this is a “win-win” for Orbital Assembly, as many of its short-term goals depend on funding.
Orbital Assembly proposes that both stations resemble a rotating wheel orbiting the Earth.
Orbital Assembly proposes that both stations resemble a rotating wheel orbiting the Earth. Credit: Orbital Assembly
In a 2019 interview, Alatorre explained that Voyager Station’s physics works like a spinning bucket of water.
“The station spins and pushes the contents of the station to the edge of the station, just like you can spin a bucket of water — the water pushes into the bucket and stays in place,” he said.
Near the station’s center, there would be no artificial gravity, but as you go down the outside of the station, the sense of gravity increases.
Physics hasn’t changed, Alatorre said recently. But, he explained, since Pioneer Station will be smaller, the gravity level would be different.
There will still be what he calls the “comfort” of artificial gravity, such as showers and the ability to eat and drink while seated — but the less-gravity spaces will make for even more fun, spatial quirks.
Interior renderings for both stations suggest an interior no different from a luxury hotel here on Earth, with additional out-of-this-world views.
Interior renderings for both stations suggest an interior no different from a luxury hotel here on Earth, with additional out-of-this-world views. Credit: Orbital Assembly
Alatorre, who has a background in architecture, previously said the hotel’s aesthetic was a direct response to the Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey — which he called “almost a blueprint of what not to do.”
“I think Stanley Kubrick’s goal was to emphasize the gap between technology and humanity, so he purposefully made the stations and the ships very sterile, clean, and otherworldly.”
The space hotel’s original name, Von Braun Station, was chosen because of 60-year-old designs inspired the concept by Wernher von Braun, an aerospace engineer who pioneered rocket technology, first in Germany and later in the US.
While living in Germany, von Braun was involved in the Nazi missile development program, so naming the space hotel after him was controversial.
“The station isn’t really about him. It’s based on his design, and we appreciate his contributions to science and space,” said former Orbital Assembly CEO John Blincow, no longer affiliated with the company, in 2021.
“But you know, Voyager Station is so much more than that. It’s the stuff in the future. And we want a name that doesn’t have that attachment.”
‘Not just the rich
Space hops have become more common in the past year, with tours organized by Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, and Elon Musk’s company SpaceX.
Alatorre said his team had talked about collaboration with “practically everyone” in the space industry.
“But the one thing all these companies miss is the destination, right?” said Alatorre.
“It’s like seeing the Grand Canyon, driving past it, and coming right back home.”
Rich trio back on Earth after a space trip
The International Space Station hosted tourists, including the world’s first space tourist Dennis Tito in 2001.
But Alatorre suggests that the ISS is primarily a place of work and research and that Orbital Assembly’s space hotel fills another niche.
“It won’t be like going to a factory or a research facility,” he said. Instead, it should feel like a “sci-fi dream”.
“There aren’t wires everywhere; it’s a comfortable space where you feel at home,” he added.
The company hopes the hotel rooms that orbit the space will make guests “feel at home.” Credit: Orbital Assembly
As billionaires pour money into space, there is a growing backlash against space tourism, with many people suggesting the money could be better spent on Earth.
In response to this criticism, Alatorre suggested that “many life-changing technologies” stem from space exploration, such as GPS.
Alatorre also argued that living in space involves creating “sustainable societies.”
“These kinds of closed-loop systems are going to change the culture, the way people think about resource use,” he said.
“Our environment isn’t just the Earth; it’s the entire solar system. And there are so many resources because we are starting to use and capitalize on those resources that will change and improve the standard of living here on Earth.”
Although the cost of a ticket to space is currently hefty, space tourism will not be just for billionaires, according to Alatorre.
“We are doing everything we can to make space accessible to everyone, not just the rich,” he said.
Design view of the Orbital Assembly space station hotel. Credit: Orbital AssemblyDesign rendering of Orbital Assembly space station hotel. Credit: Orbital Assembly
In addition to cost, Alatorre said there are other barriers to creating a space community, which are figuring out how much artificial gravity will be needed and navigating current guidelines around exposure to space radiation.
But since tourists wouldn’t necessarily stay for more than a few weeks, Alatorre suggested this wouldn’t affect visitors and would be more of a problem for those working at the stations.
A former NASA astronaut who now works at MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Jeffrey A Hoffman, said last year that a major roadblock to space tourism would be the security scare.
Debris forces the space station to move.
But Hoffman suggested that a consistent safety record will get the concept off the ground, even with continued accident risk, as with air travel.
“I’m excited about the idea that many, many more people will be able to experience being in space and hopefully bring a new sense of their relationship with our planet back to Earth,” Hoffman said.
He suggested that word of mouth would also be key.
“When the word comes back, and these early travelers tell their story, you can’t keep people away,” he said.
Alatorre, meanwhile, thinks space tourism is just getting started.
“For people who are naysayers or doubters, I’ve always said, ‘Give us time. It is going to happen. It doesn’t happen overnight.”
“And just wait for us, prove us. And we’ll show you what we’re doing as we go along, and then you can decide.’