You are here: Home » International » News » Others
Business Standard

Pay $792,000 a night for a room with a view at this luxury hotel in space

The hotel in space would offer guests 384 sunrises and sunsets as they race around the planet for 12 day

Justin Bachman | Bloomberg 

space, hotel in space
Photo: Orion Span

Aboard the Station, an astronaut’s life is typically work, exercise, rest, repeat. But what if your chance of having the right stuff for NASA’s astronaut corps is, to say the least, minimal?

Aurora Station, billed as the “first in space,” may be for you. Houston-based Span Inc hopes to launch the modular station in late 2021 and welcome its first guests the following year, with two crew members accompanying each excursion. The platform would orbit 200 miles above Earth, offering six guests 384 sunrises and sunsets as they race around the planet for 12 days at incredibly high speeds.

Once, such a thing would have clearly been the stuff of fiction. Now, in the age of SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic, the idea that a private company would launch an orbiting hotel seems almost pedestrian.

“We want to get people into because it’s the final frontier for our civilisation,” said Span’s founder and chief executive officer, Frank Bunger, a former software engineer. Span’s offering won’t be for everyone, however: Launch and re-entry are not for the faint of heart.

“We’re not selling a hey-let’s-go-to-the-beach equivalent in space,” Bunger said. “We’re selling the experience of being an astronaut. You reckon that there are people who are willing to pay to have that experience.” Beyond the physical limitations to embarking, there are also the fiscal ones.

The 12-day stay starts at $9.5 million per person, or about $791,666 a night. Aurora Station is planned as a 35-by-14-foot module, or roughly the interior volume of a Gulfstream G550 private jet, according to Bunger. The station would accommodate as many as four guests, plus the two crew. The company requires an $80,000 deposit, which is fully refundable, and began accepting payments on Thursday.

Span is assessing potential funding sources to get the endeavour off the ground, but won’t disclose how much it wants to raise for the project, a spokeswoman said. It reflects the type of commercial venture that’s become more common over the past decade, fuelled by decreases in launch costs and an influx of venture capital. Since 2015, startup companies have attracted $7.9 billion in investment, according to Bryce & Technology, a consulting firm.

“The commercialisation of LEO (low orbit) is an exciting prospect, but it will be an exercise in determining what ideas are more real than others,” said Phil Larson, a former policy adviser to President Barack Obama who worked for Elon Musk’s SpaceX, or Exploration Technologies . He is now assistant dean and chief of staff at the University of Colorado at Boulder’s College of Engineering and Applied Science.

Span has yet to contract with a launch provider, either for its initial flights to build the station or for customer flights. The startup’s aggressive four-year time frame may be a ploy, Larson said, to assess “what kind of market might be out there for this.” Van Espahbodi, managing partner of Starburst Accelerator, a consulting and venture firm, added that the public-relations push behind Span may be an effective way to help the company attract funding, too. Span’s chief architect and operating and chief technical officers are former employees. The company said it’s “developed proprietary technology to drive a full order of magnitude of cost out of the design and manufacture of a station.” Bunger said the firm’s designs would work with most of the current launch configurations, such as Arianespace, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance. It could also partner with a government agency, he said.

One reason Span can target a price of less than $10 million per person is because of declining launch prices, Bunger said in an interview. “Everybody’s forecasting that they’re going to fall,” he said. “Almost every week there’s another rocket launch company that’s starting up with a new way to get to orbit cheaper, faster, better.”

Indeed, Span joins a growing list of entrepreneurial firms that see cheaper access to leading to a demand for more real estate in low orbit. Bigelow Aerospace, founded by lodging billionaire Robert Bigelow, deployed its 8-foot, 3,000-pound inflatable activity module on the ISS in May 2016.

First Published: Sat, April 07 2018. 20:42 IST
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU