Space is just another place where humans are going to live. And because space is almost limitless humans are going to live there in vast numbers in the future - in other words, it will become a whole new habitat.

Today most activities in space are government ones because getting to and from space is so expensive. Once travel to and from orbit is cheap enough, as on Earth, most activities in space will be carried out by individuals, private companies and organizations. At that time space activities will involve almost every industry - not just the aerospace industry but construction and interior design, catering and drinks, fashion and music, sports and entertainment, advertising and law, to name just a few.

Obviously, if people are going to live in space, they are going to need somewhere to live. Hotels are all very well for tourists, but workers will have more practical needs for their permanent accommodation - being close to work for one.

Living in space for long periods of time, or even permanently, is far more serious a prospect than merely staying for a few days or weeks. Much research in space today concerns the effect on the body of living in weightlessness or "zero gravity" for long periods. While this isn't a concern for tourists (we already know that living in zero G for a few weeks has no harmful effects) the long-term effects of low gravity have both benefits and drawbacks to health.

29 July 2012
Added "Space Debris and Its Mitigation" to the archive.
16 July 2012
Space Future has been on something of a hiatus of late. With the concept of Space Tourism steadily increasing in acceptance, and the advances of commercial space, much of our purpose could be said to be achieved. But this industry is still nascent, and there's much to do. this space.
9 December 2010
Updated "What the Growth of a Space Tourism Industry Could Contribute to Employment, Economic Growth, Environmental Protection, Education, Culture and World Peace" to the 2009 revision.
7 December 2008
"What the Growth of a Space Tourism Industry Could Contribute to Employment, Economic Growth, Environmental Protection, Education, Culture and World Peace" is now the top entry on Space Future's Key Documents list.
30 November 2008
Added Lynx to the Vehicle Designs page.
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The Business Case for Orbital Hotels
From the economic point of view, building orbital accommodation has the great attraction that it will provide a large-scale commercial outlet for the know-how developed with the US space station Skylab that operated from 1973-74, the two Russian stations Salyut and Mir, and the International Space Station ( ISS) being developed in the late 1990s. Many tens of $billions have been and are being spent on these - but only one of each is ever built! So none of the manufacturers can make any money, and taxpayers have to pay for it all - but they never get to go! A truly crazy "lose-lose" situation!
The Commercial Approach

In business, having invested in developing a new product, you make and sell as many units as possible. Mass production is where you make real money. And so orbital accommodation represents a great business opportunity for companies manufacturing parts for space stations - indeed it's their only chance to earn some real money from that work. From an economic perspective, it's also the only chance for taxpayers' accumulated investment of hundreds of $billions in crewed space activities to earn a return by creating business activities that will grow large and generate tax revenues.

And, in case readers are tempted to think that there's plenty of time to think about getting involved sometime in the future, don't forget that Russian, European, Japanese and American manufacturers are already involved in this field, so there's going to be ferocious competition - in which, as in so many fields, companies that stake out the ground first are likely to get a dominant advantage. That is, it's not going to be advisable to be "Johnny-come-lately" at this party - latecomers will find themselves up against aerospace companies in currently developing countries like India, Korea, Brazil and Malaysia which have low costs and high ambitions in the aerospace sector.

In order for tourism in orbit to grow to become a large commercial business there's a need for innovation in the area of building codes and safety standards appropriate for orbital accommodation. In order to raise the (large) investments needed for orbital hotels, insurance will be essential - which requires insurance companies to have confidence about the risks involved. Buildings on Earth have to satisfy a range of standards, and the same will eventually be needed in orbit, covering such subjects as structural integrity, fire safety systems and procedures, protection from cosmic radiation and space debris, and other matters. These matters are just starting to be discussed, and are an area in which enlightened governments will see that they can greatly help their national industries by timely and encouraging legislation.

The Bottom Line

The key reason why orbital accommodation for space tourists is going to develop into a big new market is that it makes sense from a business point of view. Market research shows that there is a colossal potential market - at a time when the world economy is suffering from serious over-supply in most existing markets like cars, televisions, computers, construction - and the aerospace industry is still shrinking from the end of the cold war. This "Starvation in the midst of plenty" will last only until low-cost launch vehicles start to operate.

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