SIR Richard Branson is taking a giant leap for
drawing up plans to build the worlds first space hotels, his space
flight company Virgin Galactic has told The Business. Alex Tai, its
operations director, who will pilot Virgins first commercial
space flight in 2008, has held talks with US hotel entrepreneur Robert
Bigelow about the project, Virgin Galactics president Will Whitehorn
Bigelow Aerospace is developing inflatable pods it
believes could receive the first space travellers by the end of the
decade. Branson, Virgin Galactics chairman, revealed the space hotel
discussions in Dubai last week.
Branson said: We are talking to
people who are developing hotels for space. We are also talking to
people who are developing launch craft to get hotels into space. People
know that we can turn something that might seem a bit bizarre into a
commercial reality. Personally, I think theres a demand for space
Space hotels have also long been an interest of Burt Rutan, the
engineering brain behind Virgins SpaceShipTwo, the company said.
last week announced that the Spaceship Company, the 70:30 joint venture
between Virgin Galactic and Rutans Scaled Composites, was set to begin
construction of its first space craft, SpaceShipTwo, within six weeks.
Galactic is keeping the design of SpaceShipTwo secret. It spent $25m
(E20.6m, £14.4m) on the design and will spend $100m on construction.
The plane, about the size of a Gulfstream jet, is modelled on
SpaceShipOne, a design by Rutan which won the $10m Ansari Xprize in
October 2004 after completing its second voyage into space. It
travelled to 50,000 feet on the back of a carrier aircraft. It then
accelerated from 140 knots to supersonic speeds within 11 seconds. It
has a feather design which allows the plane to float to earth safely
like a shuttlecock.
Passengers on SpaceShipTwo will spend 15
minutes in space. They will be able to undo their seat buckles and
float weightlessly around their cabin. Around 444 people have travelled
to space so far. Virgin aims to take that many within the first year
and 10 times that amount within the first three years. Whitehorn said
the Spaceship Company would not start work on SpaceShipThree until
after 2010. It is intended to be the worlds first commercial orbital
spacecraft with potential to dock with space hotels. He said:
SpaceShipTwo will be the testbed for a future spaceship which will be
capable of orbital flight.
Commercial orbital flight will allow passengers to travel from the UK
to Australia in half an hour.
the 100 places for founders on SpaceShipTwo, 75 have been filled, each
paying $200,000 upfront. Virgin Galactic has already raised a total
$13.1m in deposits. Virgin hopes to bring the price down to $100,000
within 10 years. Branson hopes to plough back any profits into more
magnificent journeys into space. He said: I think this can be a
commercially successful venture as well as an awesome adventure.