A group of Russian companies are looking to outdo the Virgin Galactic space project by establishing the first orbiting hotel around the earth.
Until now the idea of “space tourism” was confined to those that could afford a trip through US space body NASA or its counterpart, the Russian Federal Space Agency, to the International Space Station.
Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic project, which puts paying passengers in low orbit and weightlessness for around six minutes, is hoping to start operating some time around 2012.
Details are sketchy at present, such as prices and a precise date for when operations could start (2016, according to a Russian news agency), but passengers will reach the space station via existing Soyuz and Progress spacecraft from the Russians and other providers as and when they come into the market.
Once in orbit the Commercial Space Station (CSS) will circumnavigate the earth just 100km from the ISS, allowing it to be a emergency or maintenance refuge for astronauts on either spacecraft.
A crew of up to seven people will be able to visit the station in the first phase, with plans to increase the number over time as new elements are added.
The CSS will have a 15-year shelf-life, according to Orbital Technologies. Typical short, hotel-style stays will typically be between three and 14-days, with even an opportunity for “extra-vehicular activities”, such as space walks.
CEO of Orbital Technologies, Sergey Kostenko, says:
“The CSS will be a true gateway to the rest of the solar system. A short stop-over at our station will be the perfect beginning of a manned circumlunar flight. Deep space manned exploration missions planned in the next decade are also welcome to use the CSS as a waypoint and a supply station.”
Here is a very short clip provided by Orbital Technologies yesterday: