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As children, many of us dream – or are lucky enough to attend – the popular Space Camp program based at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. There, young STEM-minded explorers learn about the science and technology needed for humans to visit space; some adults also attend through annual adult space camp and family programming.
What happens if you’re looking for a more luxurious but equally stimulating chance to prepare for human spaceflight? Seattle-based Orbite hopes to answer that question.
Orbite recently announced a brand new concept combining the New Space and hospitality sectors to create the next level of Space Camp, for those willing to invest in a trip to space – or just curious what space tourism might someday be like.
Founded by entrepreneurs Jason Andrews and Nicolas Gaume eighteen months ago, Orbite yesterday announced their plans to create a “Spaceflight Gateway and Astronaut Training Complex” for commercial astronaut training. This news comes on the heels of the successful SpaceX and NASA DM-2 launch in late May, which Gaume considers a positive signal about the space tourism industry and imminent passenger flights.Recommended For You
While the location or other details of the Orbite complex have not been announced, Gaume did confirm in conversation that the initial location will be domestic for prospective American space tourists. This is timely as Americans face travel restrictions for the foreseeable future due to the spread of Covid-19 in the U.S., and Orbite hopes to begin astronaut training programs as early as 2021.
In describing the experience, Gaume shared some broad insights: “Training is our focus, we’re here to help people get prepared. We’ll have accommodation and restaurants, and we want this to be a full experience,” he said.
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Space tourism companies like Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, and Axiom Space already plan their own training programs for astronauts pre-flight – though admittedly none have yet sent paying customers to space so it’s also difficult to envision what those programs might entail. Virgin Galactic plans to both train and launch from Spaceport America in New Mexico and has developed a detailed – and currently secret – training program.
When asked how Orbite might integrate with the actual launch providers’ training programs, Gaume shared, “we want to make sure we have a complimentary training and elevate what the programs are offering. We want our guests to feel more they’re getting more out of our training on top of what they get from the provider.”
When asked what type of customer Orbite might attract, Gaume said they envision the primary customer being “more wealthier individuals who are able to afford the cost of a suborbital or orbital flight,” but also discussed how customers might come do a training program even if they do not actually intend to fly. This prompted a discussion of Space Camp, and how Orbite might meet a global demand for an elevated experience that is both practical in terms of training space tourists but also accessible to reach more people interested in visiting space someday.
While Orbite plans to start training future space tourists in 2021, they don’t intend to open the full complex and training program until 2023. Between now and then, “we want to be able to start supporting what value we can bring to each space tourism company. We feel we can start doing seminars and provide service, experience, and accommodation that will fit what our complex will offer and get ready for when we open in 2023,” Gaume said. “We have a number of milestones to pass.”
“Jason and I are passionate about the personal journey [of visiting space],” Gaume said. “We love space and we’re entrepreneurs but we also feel there’s only one planet. We don’t see space as a way to escape the planet, but rather to value the planet. Sustainability will be a key value.”
With all the excitement space tourism holds for the future, seeing companies which place sustainability at the core of their business while offering the experience to more people will be an interesting story to follow.