Space tourism does not surprise anyone nowadays. Spaceships are not enough for this industry anymore - space tourists need a place, where they can stay for their orbital vacations. Russia may become the first country to build a near-orbit hotel. Sergei Kostenko, the head of Orbital Technologies, stated that a commercial space station may accept first clients already in 2015-2016. The station will offer the comfort of hotel suites, not just inflatable rooms, as some American competitors offer.
The Russian station will have four cabins. They will have large windows so that the guests could always enjoy the beauty of space 24/7. The hotel will be able to accommodate up to six tourists at once. In addition to space tourists, the commercial station will open its doors for researchers. It will also be possible to use the station as a shelter for ISS crews in case of emergency.
"We plan to start the construction in 2013, we are currently dealing with projecting and marketing works," Kostenko said. The project is being developed by Russia's main enterprise in the field of manned cosmonautics - Rocket and Space Corporation Energia, the official added. The station will be designed to dock with Soyuz spaceships, Progress frighter spacecraft and space shuttles of other countries. The hotel will be staying not far from the International Space Station, but the hotel will not have a rescue space vehicle. This detail does not scare off potential clients. The space hotel is to be launched in five or six years, but tourists already make room reservations.
The United States is also working on a similar project. The Americans are developing the CSS Skywalker project. A day on orbit will cost a tourist a million dollars. The price does not include transportation costs.
Space tours will become cheaper in the future, of course. When is it going to happen, though? Four years ago, Spain's Galactic Suite promised to launch the first-ever space hotel in 2012. Company officials said that a three-day orbital holiday would cost a space tourist four million dollars. Such a holiday also stipulated two months of physical preparations for space travelers. The project has not materialized.
It became known in the spring of 2010 that Bigelow Aerospace (USA) started hiring employees to work at a space hotel. The company's owner, Robert Bigelow, owns a chain of Budget Suites of America hotels on Earth. He runs successful business, but it seems that the man is not satisfied. The entrepreneur launched the production of manned space modules of new generation. He develops the project on the base of NASA's TransHab and has already invested $180 million in it.
He eventually managed to launch so-called inflatable rooms into space. The rooms can be inflated to the specified size of 4x2.5 meters when in orbit, Lenta.ru reported. However, further experiments with space rubber bubbles showed that Bigelow Aerospace could not afford launching larger modules.
Now the Americans are working on Sundancer module and the above-mentioned CSS Skywalker hotel. Despite Robert Bigelow's ambitious plans, Russia has all chances to leave the competitors behind. The United States still does not have have the transportation spacecraft, which could deliver tourists on orbit. For the time being, the Americans rent Russia's Soyuz booster rockets.
Will Russian spaceships be able to cope with such a serious task? Igor Afanasyev, an editor with News of Cosmonautics magazine, told Newsinfo website that Russia's Energia Corporation does not hold the capacity to produce more spaceships that it does now. "The ships are hardly enough to organize flights to the International Space Station, and we would have to expand the production to deliver tourists to space hotels," Afanasyev said.
"Neither the Russian, not the American space systems are capable of servicing a large number of space tourists today. One has to build larger spaceships, something like space shuttles of new generation. It goes without saying that developing new spaceships costs a lot of money. This is not really business yet, it's just an offer right now. The only kind of space tourism that is economically justifiable today is suborbital tourism, but it has not had a flight yet," he said.