Buying a ticket to space has long been a dream that will soon become reality for some and a possibility for even more.
We’re very much in the early days of companies competing for customers who want to experience space firsthand, and 2021 is poised to be a pivotal year for companies including Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin for proving their technology is passenger-ready.
A new report published today predicts the size of the space tourism and travel market by 2030 based on the current pace of innovation. The upshot is that the number of space tourists among us could be measured in the tens of thousands by the end of the decade.
Northern Sky Research has published its Space Tourism and Travel Markets 2nd Edition report in which it cites Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic suborbital tourism for fueling a $7.9 billion market over the next nine years. The report uses a measurement of global cumulative revenue to predict that value.
The market is driven by suborbital tourism, which will accelerate once Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin launches take place in late 2021. While the high-visibility orbital space tourism market, where movie stars and wealthy individuals are paying over $55 million dollars for a ride, will rake in the highest tally cumulatively; a more low-key role – the parabolic flight tourism market – will offer zero-G rides to aficionados who dream of going to space, but do not have the money to pay.
Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin lead the sub-orbital market and all eyes will be on them to help make a firm statement that this market is “for real”. But when commercial rockets launched crewed missions to the ISS this year, indications pointed to orbital flight potentially taking the lead. The bright side is, that with such high demand, the sky will soon no longer be the limit for space tourism, and this is true across all types of space tourism services.
Blue Origin has completed 13 flights with its sub-orbital rocket called New Shepard, and the next mission NS-14 is being planned for the first quarter of 2021. The space exploration company founded by Jeff Bezos hasn’t attempt to fly passengers on New Shepard yet, but Blue Origin plans to use New Shepard for paying customers who want to travel to the Karman line in the future.
Virgin Galactic is developing a sub-orbital spaceplane called SpaceShipTwo Unity rather than a traditional rocket system. At least three test flights are planning for the next year or so before paying customers will be able to experience space as passengers.
SpaceX’s success with NASA’s Commercial Crew program to send astronauts to the ISS on Falcon 9 rockets and Crew Dragon spacecrafts is also cited in the report as a sign of confidence for the future of space tourism.
SpaceX is working with Axiom Space and Space Adventures to fly non-astronaut passengers to space, including actor Tom Cruise who is bound for the ISS on SpaceX’s AX-1 mission later this year. Elon Musk’s Starship system should also come to mind when considering space travel in the years ahead.
Ultimately, NSR predicts the $7.9 billion space tourism and travel market will see a whopping 41,000 passengers experience space travel by the end of the decade based on current development. Plausible or farfetched? Let us know what you think!