Space travel agencies provide a new industry for very wealthy tourists


Historically, spaceflight has always been part of a government-backed effort that requires extensive training, funding, and a legitimate mission. Many commercial space companies promise to change that.

From a stroll in the stratosphere Space Perspective balloon to an exciting Virgin Galactic suborbital ride to Axiom’s week-long stay at the International Space Station (ISS), private space travel packages offer a myriad of experiences at every altitude. And they’re available to anyone who can afford a price tag ranging from $ 100,000 to $ 50 million.

Most human spaceflight companies are still a few years away from regularly paying paying customers. However, they are already attracting potential customers and in the footsteps of potential passengers, luxury travel agents who believe that space tourism is another great effort of the ultra-rich.

These travel agencies can help the space industry find customers in a narrow section of the population with the resources and interest to go into space. And for mega-rich orbits, a space travel agency can handle the complicated process of checking a dealer, negotiating a price, and booking tickets.

Luxury travel agencies sell space tickets

SpaceVIP, a service launched in early 2021 by Roman Chiporukh, a New York-based consultant who helps the very wealthy to plan vacations, has booked three group flights with Space Perspective, a Florida startup that offers a slow stratospheric sightseeing tour. capsule lifted by a huge balloon filled with hydrogen.

The entire journey takes about six hours, including two hours of hovering at a maximum of about 100,000 feet (19 miles) – which is not technically space, but still three times more than where commercial aircraft fly. Because the ascent and descent are slow, the journey does not require any training. In the space tourism community, Space Perspective is seen as a subtler and less expensive alternative to Virgin Galactic’s 90-minute suborbital flight, which requires basic astronaut training. Space Perspective co-founder Jane Poynter said many customers on her company’s booking list are also future travelers with Virgin Galactic.

The SpaceVIP website says it can help secure tickets to 11 different space travel programs. Programs that can be completed in one day and require minimal training, such as those offered by Space Perspective and Virgin Galactic, are the most popular among his clients, Chiporukha said, and expects tickets to sell out quickly when scheduled flights begin. (Virgin Galactic says it has booked more than 700 reservations. Space Perspective said it has more than 600 people on its reservation list.) Chiporukha was one of the first birds.

Space Perspective expects to launch its first paying customer sometime in 2024. Chiporukha said SpaceVIP had not found enough passengers to fill the three flights (24 seats) it had booked, but wanted to “secure full inventory” for future clients. especially who want to fly in groups. “They may want to fly with seven friends before a specific date, but there are only two,” Chiporukha said.

Space Perspective charges $ 125,000 per person and Virgin Galactic $ 450,000 (recently raised from $ 250,000). Although not trivial, both price points have huge address markets: that’s right estimated more than 2.4 million people in the world can afford them. “There’s a real craving for these experiences,” Chiporukha said.

On the seller’s side, especially on the higher end of the price spectrum, some space companies rely on intermediaries to help them find customers.

Rey Flemings, a consultant who manages real estate and lifestyle needs for the ultra-rich, is helping Axiom Space, a Houston-based startup that proposes to build a commercial space station, to find passengers willing to spend $ 60 million on vacation at the International Space Station. . He is currently coordinating a trip for one potential astronaut. “There aren’t that many people who have $ 60 million,” Flemings said, laughing.

In November 2020, before the official launch of SpaceVIP, Chiporukha helped find a passenger on a 10-day trip to the ISS using the SpaceX Crew Dragon launch system organized by Space Adventures. space travel company based in Washington, DC. The mission was canceled in October 2021 due to the expiration of the Space Adventures contract with SpaceX.

Brokers do much more than just book tickets

Virgin Galactic recently opened a ticket reservation for the public. Space Perspective markets its services in a similar way. But even though tickets are available online, there is still room for brokers.

The main reasons are the huge amount of money and the nascent nature of space tourism. Most companies that provide civil space flights have little experience and their business relies on a relatively small group of clients who invest large sums of money in future services.

Flemings’ Myria will check both sellers and buyers before booking a trip. Everyone must go through identity verification, verification of net assets, availability of funds and anti-money laundering checks. During the coordination process, buyers and sellers are asked to constantly evaluate each other in terms of “kindness” or how easy it is to work with them.

“They are all fully tested, which significantly reduces the risk of fraud and encourages the best behavior of everyone,” said Flemings. “Sellers can be sure that every buyer is fully qualified, interested and able to complete the transaction.”

Another task of travel agencies is to find the ideal combination of activities for every budget. Because most suborbital and alpine programs are not yet available, these brokers help clients find Earth-bound alternatives, such as centrifuge simulation training and artificial life. “biomes” which mimic the environment of extraterrestrial planets.

For example, with a beginner’s budget of $ 100,000, Chiporukha of SpaceVIP would recommend starting with years in zero gravity and then a centrifuge simulation training program (both cost less than $ 10,000). Some of these programs are also a prerequisite for suborbital and orbital flights. If enough money remained, he would recommend reserving a seat at Space Perspective.

Justification of extravagance

Many aspiring space tourists claim that what excites them the most on their way to space is the so-called “report effect” an mind-changing experience reported by some astronauts after seeing first-hand the reality of the Earth from space and realizing how fragile and tiny our planet is on a large scale.

“As many astronauts have said, it has changed their perspective,” said Sharon Hagle, a Virgin Galactic customer who booked two tickets for herself and her husband, Marc Hagle, in 2007. The couple were also Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin customers. . They flew into space with three other passengers on the fourth human Blue Origin space flight on March 31.

It is probably not too difficult for the ultra-rich to justify a price tag for a short space trip. The community typically spends more than $ 1 million on vacation, Flemings said. Nevertheless, many of them feel the need to assign a higher purpose to their space trips, especially given that civil space flights are often a highly publicized event today and are not as discreet as a superyacht party.

“When you get to the point where you can afford a $ 1 million experience, price becomes less important than what you’re trying to achieve and how other people feel,” Flemings said.

Flemings believes that the early stages of space tourism could open the door to what he calls “experiential philanthropy,” where wealthy clients contribute part of their holiday funds to more meaningful projects such as scientific research. “There are countless research projects in space that could benefit from additional funding,” he said.

Hagle has earned her wealth from real estate and now leads SpaceKids Global, a non-profit educational organization that aims to encourage elementary school students to pursue careers in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics).

“When I return, I want to share my experience with children in primary school and inspire the next generation. That’s what SpaceKids Global is all about, “Blue Origin said the summer before. She has five grandchildren between the ages of 5 and 18.

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