Orion Span, a startup that launched yesterday, wants to offer luxury accommodations in space for 12-day trips at a going rate of $9.5 million.
“We’re proud to announce Aurora Station – our first orbital community – will launch in late 2021 as the world’s first luxury space hotel. By early 2022, we will be hosting tourists, astronauts, space research, and manufacturing on board Aurora Station in LEO [low Earth orbit],” says CEO Frank Bunger in an introductory blog post.
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The company will not be in the rocket business and plans to rely on others to get their customers into orbit. “That will be through partnerships with SpaceX, Blue Origin or a space agency,” Bunger says in an interview with SpaceNews. Similarly, the company plans to find a partner when looking for a place to launch its modules.
While the company doesn’t even have a facility with which to build its Aurora Station in Houston—Bunger says the company will “probably be getting that in the next six to nine months”— that hasn’t stopped Orion from painting a picture of what those trips will look like on its website. Under the label “Authentic Astronaut Experience,” the company says
Arriving at Aurora Station on a partner spaceflight, you’ll be warmly greeted with an experience that blows your mind. As an astronaut-in-training on Aurora Station, you’ll contribute to and directly drive the success of vital space research, and also experience our Holodeck- a virtual reality experience in space that can be had only aboard Aurora Station.
The work you’ll be doing is important work that directly contributes to humanity’s destiny in the stars. For example, the art of self-sustaining space colonies growing food on their own will be replicated far and wide on future Moon and Mars colonies, and beyond.
Every 90 minutes we complete an orbit, meaning you’ll see day & night over Earth hundreds of times during your 12-day stay, with ample opportunity to photograph your hometown from space. With Aurora Station’s fastest wireless internet access in space, you’ll be equipped to share your experience with friends & family on Earth instantly.
Orion hopes to attract a diverse clientele—or, at least, as diverse a clientele as one can attract when tickets cost $9.5 million. This can mean small governments looking to give their burgeoning space program a boost or people interested in space real estate. A section titled “Space Condos” suggests the ability to live in such a condo or to become a space landlord and sublease your cosmic condo to another space resident.
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The company only has six employees at the moment and Bunger does not have direct space experience, although some of the hires do. Orion Span joins burgeoning companies like Bigelow Space that are betting their business models on future technologies that will be able to carry them into space and set up shop.
Orion, however, puts elegance first. While their website does not exactly what “luxury” means in space, a place known for cramped living quarters and mediocre food, the company wants its Aurora Station to be a single module with a volume of 160 cubic meters. That means it could likely house six people with two crewmembers.
“It’s a single-module space station. It’s turnkey in operations. When you launch it, it’s immediately in service. It’s not something where you launch bits and pieces and assemble them or inflate them,” Bunger says, that last statement a possible shot across the bow at Bigelow, which has purchased experimental NASA technology that creates inflatable space habitats.
Orion Span has also announced that it will start collecting $80,000 ticket deposits on its eventual trips, which will be held in escrow and will be fully refundable. There’s no word yet about the food.