Space tourism is having its “...one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” moment, with several companies having safely launched all civilian crews to the great beyond. While the industry is still in its nascent stages, it was already worth roughly $598 million in 2021. It’s also expected to grow at a 37.1% CAGR, with a revenue forecast of $8.67 billion by 2030.
Of course, many ambitious businesses and startups are looking to the stars and striving for ways to make space tourism a reality.
What is Space Tourism?
Today, the height of tourism is jumping on a jet and zooming off to a never-before-visited location across the globe. In many ways, space tourism represents the natural evolution of finding ever-more fascinating and exotic places to visit. Except, you’ll be strapping yourself into the cockpit of a rocket and shooting straight out of Earth’s atmosphere.
Space tourism is still in its pre-natal stages. SpaceX, Virgin Atlantic, and Blue Origin have given us the first look at what the first stage of space tourism may look like with its first all-civilian forrays. However, these were all relatively short trips that all remained within the Earth’s orbit.
However, all these companies have committed to ramping up the number of civilian flights they undertake in the coming years.
While these groundbreaking achievements gave us a taster of what’s to come, it’s only the tip of the iceberg of what’s possible regarding space tourism. For now, the flights are relatively short, offer very few luxuries and amenities, are funded by extremely wealthy donors, or come at a price that only the world’s wealthiest individuals can afford.
However, as the industry matures, new technologies come to the fore, and competitors multiply, space tourism will become more accessible with more options when it comes to experiences. Many companies have already decided to offer short orbital flights and long-term trips to the Moon or nearby planets.
However, not all space tourism will be as exotic as trips to outer space. At some point, it’s expected that point-to-point rocket flights that are much quicker will start replacing 10-hour plus long-haul flights for certain markets.
When Can We Expect Space Tourism to Become a Thing?
The simple answer is that space tourism is already a thing. Companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic have proved their capabilities at crewed, all-civilian space flights with their virgin missions.
Some are already selling tickets or reservations to the public with confirmed space flight schedules in 2022 and 2023. Blue Origin has already completed 4 commercial flights, while SpaceX is gearing up for its first commercial launch in 2024.
Virgin Atlantic plans to proceed with its first commercial flights in Q1 of 2023.
Now, it’s a matter of scaling operations sufficiently and lowering the price cap to make it available to larger markets. Today, no one can confidently say when space flight will become a viable option for the average Joe, if ever. However, there’s no denying that it’s going to grow into a massive industry with immense revenue potential
Space Tourism Startups
SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic are all relatively young companies and clear frontrunners in this budding industry. However, it’s debatable whether they classify as “real” startups as offshoots of some of the world’s most valuable companies. Still, we included them here for posterity.
We also curated some of the most exciting and promising small-scale startups making waves in space travel. Many of these startups are taking advantage of the groundbreaking nature of the space travel industry by offering related products and services.
Launched on September 16, 2021, SpaceX’s Inspiration4 mission saw the Crew Dragon Resilience take off with a crew of 4 with a mission time of 2 days, 23 hours, and 3 minutes. At an orbital altitude of 585km, SpaceX’s crew orbited the Earth at a significantly higher altitude than the ISS (International Space Station).
SpaceX Rideshare tickets start at $275,000 for a 50kg individual, charging $5,500 per extra kg.
Blue Origin launched its first human flight on July 20, 2021, via its New Shepard rocket and spaceflight system. The flight lasted approximately 10 minutes and crossed the Kármán line - the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space.
Its first 4-man crew comprised Jeff Bezos and his brother, Mark, Wally Funk, and Oliver Daemen. Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner, was another high-profile passenger on a subsequent Blue Origin flight. Blue Origin has also released reservation requests via its websites, with ticket prices reported to be as high as $28 million.
Virgin Atlantic, with its winged rocketship more akin to an airplane, is unique among the space tourism frontrunners. It launched its first 4-man mission on July 11, 2021. In February 2022, Virgin opened ticket sales to the public, charging $450,000 a seat for 4-person flights that take about 90 minutes.
However, they had already sold as many as 700 ticket reservations to customers before that by November 2021.
Epsilon3’s core team consists of SpaceX, Google, and Stanford engineers with firsthand experience on more than 100 launches. To date, the company raised a $15 million Series A in 2022.
They offer procedure software solutions to help companies tackle complex, high-stakes operations. One of the chief applications for their software is in the space travel industry, and they specifically target this market. In fact, they’ve been used by companies like Strato Launch, Turion Space, and Virgin Galactic.
CAS Space is a spin-off company of the state-owned Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). It announced a collaborative effort with another state-owned travel agency to launch its space travel program. The first crewless demonstration flights are expected sometime soon, with the first crewed flights in 2023. The proposed spaceflight system is similar to that of SpaceX and Blue Origin.
It’s hard to imagine a more exciting industry for startups than that space tourism. The development of space tourism will allow businesses, and humanity as a whole, to push boundaries in every sense of the word - technologically, financially, and exploratorily. As is always the case with new vertices, the story is not only about companies directly involved with spaceflight. It will also be interesting to see startups emerge in related subsectors that will play a vital role in helping the industry scale, grow, and adapt.
Topic: Space Startups