(Forbes)– So, where to for your next vacation? Somewhere exotic… far flung… remote, even? For the new few years you’ll have to be content with earthly offerings that tick these boxes, but come 2021 you should be able to look a little further afield. Or rather above, as 72-year-old billionaire hotel mogul Robert Bigelow has unveiled his plans for the first space hotel.
While that all sounds very sci-fi, Bigelow’s credentials are actually sound and with the commercial private sector space race heating up to surface-of-the-sun levels, it would be foolish to dispel such ideas as folly.
Through his company Bigelow Aerospace, founded in 1999, the stargazer is creating a line of B330 ‘fully autonomous standalone space stations’. In answer to questions about that aggressive timeline, Bigelow has confirmed two stations, the B330-1 and B330-2, are already ‘very far along in fabrication’.
Plans show two 55-foot (17-metre) long, 22-foot (seven-metre) wide independent modules that will link together to create the ‘space hotel’ and offer double the cubic capacity of the current International Space Station (ISS). The B330s can operate in low earth orbit (around 250 miles up) and cislunar space and will eventually form part of a ‘monster’ space station.
Bigelow’s primary plans are to sell stays to governments who need space time to conduct experiments in orbital laboratories. But a clear second income stream will be from commercial space tourists, albeit those with very, very deep pockets. For a stay in one of the six available beds in each B330, Bigelow estimated the cost could be ‘in the low seven figures’ but would more likely be ‘in the low eight figures’.
Rather than just jumping in without looking, he plans to spend millions trying to understand what the global market is for commercial space ventures.
Although the B330s are being built by Bigelow Aerospace, the space hotel will fall under the remit of his new company Bigelow Space Operations (BSO) at an estimated cost of $2.3billion. BSO will manage any modules that Bigelow Aerospace sends into orbit.
In a slightly long-winded statement, BSO said, “These single structures that house humans on a permanent basis will be the largest, most complex structures ever known as stations for human use in space”.
Bigelow made his billions by founding the Budget Suites of America hotel chain in 1987, but his real focus was always on the stars. At just 12 years old, he resolved that his future was in space travel and so decided to ‘choose a career that would make him rich enough that, one day, he could hire the scientific expertise required to launch his own space program’. Some dreams do come true then.