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Aurora Station: Luxury Space Hotel Will Launch in 2021, California Start-up Says

Newsweek logo Newsweek 07-04-2018 Newsweek Europe

California start-up Orion Span announced Thursday ambitious plans to launch the world’s first dedicated "luxury space hotel." The Aurora Station is penciled in for launch in 2021 and the company hopes it will be able to accommodate space-tourists by 2022, if all goes well.

Four people at a time will be able to stay on board the spacecraft, accompanied by two crew members who will likely be former astronauts. The company said at the Space 2.0 Summit in San Jose that the project will bring down the cost of visiting and living in space by simplifying the technology involved. Orion Span CEO and founder Frank Bunger described their service as "affordable," Space.com reported.

A 12-day stay, however, will still set you back a cool $9.5 million at the very least and you’ll need to put down an $80,000 deposit to get yourself on the waiting list. The fee will be fully refundable if you change your mind. In fairness, this is significantly cheaper than the fees paid by the handful of private citizens that have stayed on the International Space Station (ISS). These ranged from anywhere between $20 and $40 million per trip.

The Aurora Station will measure around 43 feet long by 14 feet wide, according to the company, and will orbit the Earth at an altitude of around 200 miles (for comparison, the ISS orbits at an altitude of 250 miles). Aurora will complete an orbit every 90 minutes, meaning lucky customers will be able to watch 16 sunrises and sunsets every day.

Bunger told Forbes that the accommodation would far exceed that on the ISS and guests would even be able to stay in contact with loved ones via high-speed Internet access.

Initially, the company expects the first visitors to be private space tourists, who will get the chance to experience life as astronauts after undergoing a three-month training program included in the price. Orion Span is also advertising to other groups in the field of space research, such as government agencies, and organizations interested in space manufacturing—a field which promises to enable industrial processes that cannot be realized on Earth.

The station is being designed to be modular, meaning different sections can be added in future. “We designed Aurora Station to grow and respond to market needs,” Bunger wrote on the company’s blog. “When we reach capacity, we simply launch another of the same space station and attach it on Aurora's radial hub. As Aurora Station continues to grow, we will also sell space condos—your own capacity aboard Aurora Station and future space stations to visit, sublease, or one day live in as you wish.”

The company will build the spacecraft itself at a factory in Houston with the help of engineers who contributed to the design and operation of the ISS. Bunger admitted that, at present, Orion had not secured a facility, although the CEO hoped that they would find one within the next six to nine months, SpaceNews.com reported.

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It is unclear how people will get to the hotel as Orion is yet to complete any deals with launch providers. The company is also still looking for additional funding.

The latest announcement comes after Russia’s space agency revealed their own plans in December 2017 for a luxury space hotel module that will attach to the ISS—which is also scheduled for delivery in 2021. The module will house four people for up to a month at a time and will cost visitors anywhere between $40 million and $60 million per trip. The race is on to see whether Orion’s hotel or the Russian module will launch first.

Private companies such as SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic have also announced their own space tourism plans, with the latter successfully testing its new supersonic spacecraft, Unity, on Thursday.

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