The future of space tourism could be based out of a California P.O. box

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IMAGE VIA ORBITAL ASSEMBLY
  • Image via Orbital Assembly
Despite what the flash-in-the-pan furor over a planned outer space hotel  might have you believe, the project and the company behind it have been around for nearly a decade. Orbital Assembly's team was brought together in 2012, releasing designs for the hotel concept beginning in 2017. Since then, the small group has tried to gain attention and investors for their ambitious plans via headline-grabbing announcements. Now that key advisors and contractors are on board, the hotel is moving to its next phase. The press garnered over the past few days helped the startup raise a million dollars via a Kickstarter-like capital investment website, Netcapital.

In spite of flashy announcements and a space-bound concept, the company as it currently exists is decidedly mundane.  On government documents related to the crowdfunding offering, the address used is a P.O. box in a UPS Store in a strip mall in Southern California. The funding is for Orbital Assembly Corporation, a space construction company founded by Gateway Foundation in 2018. The two companies share much of the same leadership and plans, along with the same P.O. box.



According to a timeline provided in the capital investment pitch, OAC plans to demonstrate its plans by the end of this year. Robotic and truss assembly demonstrations will follow next year and run through 2022. Construction on the hotel is slated to begin in 2026. OAC states the hotel will welcome the first guests in 2027. When completed, it will accommodate 280 guests and 112 crew members.

Similar to the Contemporary Resort at Walt Disney World was built, the space hotel known as Voyager Station will have its skeleton built on-site. The hotel rooms will be made as modules, or pods, on Earth and then shipped to the hotel where they will be connected.



IMAGE VIA GATEWAY FOUNDATION
  • Image via Gateway Foundation

Other modules include a gymnasium, a restaurant and bar, and customizable rooms for private or government use. The hotel is just one of the project's planned income streams, as it hopes to cater other parts of the station toward researchers and private investors.

Voyager Station is just one building the company hopes to construct in space. A much larger outpost called Gateway Station will stretch more than 1,600 feet across and hold 1,400 passengers and crew. 
The Gateway Station compared to other space stations - IMAGE VIA GATEWAY FOUNDATION
  • Image via Gateway Foundation
  • The Gateway Station compared to other space stations

With dozens of companies now seeking to become major players in the commercial space race, off-earth travel and commercialization are bound to become one of the distinguishing features of this decade. The rise in space commercialization and travel has been described as the ‘next Industrial Revolution’ and is an inevitable step in ensuring humanity's long-term viability. Still, we’re just in the beginning phase, where many promises and goals go unfulfilled. We’ve seen a similar shift in timelines and objectives in other emerging technologies, from fully autonomous vehicles to hyperloop.
IMAGE VIA GATEWAY FOUNDATION
  • Image via Gateway Foundation


In a 2019 interview John Blincow, the president of Gateway Foundation and the CEO of OAC, said the Voyager Station will cost upwards of $75 billion to construct. It also requires technology that’s just now being tested, such as space-ready construction robots that have yet to be built. Even if the financing wasn’t a concern, a six-year construction timeline is bold.

For comparison's sake, Disney World’s upcoming Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser hotel (which is designed to look like a space hotel) will have taken five years from Disney’s confirmation of it to its opening. The resort’s upcoming space-themed Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind roller coaster will have taken a similar timeline. Universal Orlando’s most recent hotel, the budget-focused Endless Summer Resort, took nearly four years to complete.

It's inevitable that a space hotel will eventually be built and OAC is further along than many other companies seeking to make space the next tourism frontier. In the meantime, the company is selling Lifetime Memberships that allow you to enter into a lottery once the hotel opens. The memberships cost $499 and come with a free notebook and pen.

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