There are currently 222 documents in the archive.

Bibliography Archives List Library Listing

29 July 2012
Added "Space Debris and Its Mitigation" to the archive.
16 July 2012
Space Future has been on something of a hiatus of late. With the concept of Space Tourism steadily increasing in acceptance, and the advances of commercial space, much of our purpose could be said to be achieved. But this industry is still nascent, and there's much to do. this space.
9 December 2010
Updated "What the Growth of a Space Tourism Industry Could Contribute to Employment, Economic Growth, Environmental Protection, Education, Culture and World Peace" to the 2009 revision.
7 December 2008
"What the Growth of a Space Tourism Industry Could Contribute to Employment, Economic Growth, Environmental Protection, Education, Culture and World Peace" is now the top entry on Space Future's Key Documents list.
30 November 2008
Added Lynx to the Vehicle Designs page.
More What's New Subscribe Updates by Email
G I Crouch & G Crouch, 2001, "Researching the Space Tourism Market", Annual Conference Proceedings, Travel and Tourism Research Association.
Also downloadable from the space tourism market.shtml

References and Referring Papers    Printable Version 
 Bibliographic Index
Researching the Space Tourism Market
Geoffrey I Crouch, Ph.D.
The development and growth of space tourism faces a number of hurdles. Producing credible and reliable estimates of market demand represents one of the most significant of these hurdles. This paper examines the research conducted to date that has attempted to estimate and predict the market for space tourism. It identifies several research challenges and considers methodological alternatives that might improve research findings.

In the late 1960s film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick and Sir Arthur C. Clarke envisaged a future 2001 in which mankind would be traveling in orbit around the Earth in reusable vehicles resembling futuristic passenger aircraft flying passengers and crew in a 'zero G' environment. The aircraft, although technically obviously very different, superficially appeared a small step from contemporary passenger aircraft. In fact, in the film, Pan Am not NASA, was identified as the aircraft's operator and it is understood that, as a result of the interest generated by the movie, Pan Am took 93,000 reservations from those members of the public who wanted to be among the first to fly in space (Michalopoulos 1999).

Pan Am is no longer, but space tourism appears closer than ever. In fact, space tourism, in a way, has already been with us for a good number of years ever since the public began to visit facilities at the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Mission Control in Houston, and the Baikonur cosmodrome, or to witness a rocket launch. The public already participate in 'space camps', and tourists can pay the Russians to experience zero gravity on board the Russian cosmonaut training vehicle or to ride in a MiG jetfighter. And most recently, on April 28, 2001, when the wealthy Californian investor, Mr. Dennis Tito, accompanied a Russian flight to the International Space Station at a price believed to amount to US$20 million, the era of extra-terrestrial space tourism began.

Space, the Universe, and mankind's minute presence in it fascinate humans. The idea of being able to look down on the surface of the Earth from space with its thin atmosphere sustaining life, and floating in a black void with trillions upon trillions of stars and galaxies far beyond is an imagined experience that generates passion and excitement in everyone. But, if space travel and tourism were available to the public, how many could and would participate?


In 1903, the Wright brothers made the first powered airplane flights in history. A mere 66 years later in 1969, mankind landed on the moon, and the Boeing 747 and Concorde made their first flights. Aircraft had produced the most profound effects on the travel and tourism industry. A century, almost, after the Wright brothers flight, we are on the threshold of space tourism. In the 21st century, space tourism may be the most significant development yet experienced by the tourism industry.

We might ask why public space travel is not already a reality. A century ago, two brothers in a bicycle shop were able to build the world's first powered aircraft. But it took an organization of thousands to put man on the moon. For public space travel to get off the ground, the cooperation of many separate players will be required; governments and regulators, numerous industries (energy, tourism, insurance, finance, engineering, aviation etc.), and of course financial markets themselves. In order to gain the interest, participation and cooperation of so many disparate businesses, organizations and individuals, but particularly to convince capital markets, valid, reliable and convincing estimates of market demand are essential. Indeed, in the opinion of one expert in this field ( Simberg 2000, p. 10), "the current technology level is the least of the problems confronting space tourism entrepreneurs ? the most difficult problem remains not in design and implementation, but in raising needed investment funds."

"Validation of the real market for general public space travel and tourism is going to be an essential step. A central issue will be: is it possible to get that validation with current vehicles?" (NASA/STA 1998, p. 8). Some market research studies have already been undertaken and the results of these (reviewed below) lend support to those wishing to develop space tourism


A number of efforts to estimate the likely scale of demand for space tourism have been made within the last decade. These are briefly summarized below before attention is turned toward future research of the space tourism market.


As part of this study, consultants Yankelovich Partners together with Yesiawich, Pepperdine and Brown surveyed a sample of 1,500 US families in 1996. The survey found that 34% of respondents "would be interested in taking a two-week vacation in the Space Shuttle in the future", and 42% were interested in the concept of space travel aboard a space cruise vessel offering accommodations and entertainment programs similar to an ocean-going cruise ship. To the question "what would you be willing to pay per person for such an experience?" 7.5% indicated $100,000 or more.

This study, undertaken by an alliance of six US Aerospace Corporations employed a "bottoms-up" method to estimate the market based primarily on income, wealth, age, and ticket price. The approach, which could be described as a heuristic method, produced three demand curves (i.e. low, medium and high probability). The estimated demand curves suggest worldwide annual passenger demand of the orders summarized in Table 1.


Ticket Price (US$)Demand
Low Medium High

$10,000 3,000,000150,0006,000
$100,000 20,000 1,000 60
$1,000,000 200 70 20

Japanese Studies

Collins, Iwasaki, Kanayama and Ohnuki (1994a and 1994b) and Collins, Stockmans and Maita (1995) published the results of estimated demand in Japan for space tourism. The research, conducted in 1993 on 3,030 people, found that 45% of those over 60 years of age, and nearly 80% of those under 60 would like to go to space. In addition, the most popular activities were found to be to 'look at Earth' and 'space walk' followed by 'astronomical observation', 'zero G sport', 'zero G experiments' and 'other'. About 20% indicated a preparedness to spend a year's pay or more on space tourism, and most interest was in travel of several days' duration.

Collins, Maita, Stockmans and Kobayashi (1996) undertook an additional telephone survey in Japan. Seven of 500 respondents indicated they would be prepared to pay between 5,010,000 yen and 10,000,000 yen (approximately US$40,000 to US$80,000) for a two-day stay in orbit, equating to 1.7 million potential Japanese.

North American Study

The survey applied to study Japanese demand was repeated by Collins, Stockmans and Maita (1995) to assess demand in the US and Canada. The survey found that 61% of the population was interested in space tourism, a little over 10% stated they were prepared to pay a year's salary or more for the privilege, and most were interested in stays of several days or longer requiring some form of orbital accommodation.

German Study

The Collins et al. survey was again used for comparative purposes by Abitzsch (1996) to estimate space tourism demand by Germans. Forty three percent of Germans expressed an interest in participating in space tourism, a lower proportion than the Japanese (70%) and Americans/Canadians (61%). In terms of preferred space tourism activities, desired travel duration, and preparedness to pay, the results were very consistent with those produced in the other two studies. Abitzsch produced a 'global market' demand curve by consolidating the result from the various studies and arrived at the estimates in Table 2. These figures are significantly more optimistic than those in Table 1 above.


Price per Ticket (1994 $)Passengers per Year

$1,000 20 million
$10,000 5 million
$100,000 400,000
$250,000 1,000
$500,000 170

UK Study

Again, Barrett (1999) replicated the Collins et al. survey in the United Kingdom on a much smaller sample of 72. Thirty five percent of respondents indicated an interest in taking a trip into space if it became a reality, and 12% expressed a preparedness to pay one year's salary on such a tour.

Spacecruiseship Study

This 1999 survey of 2002 Americans sought to assess interest in, and demand for, a six-day journey from the Earth to the Moon and back on a luxurious spacecruiseship for the Bigelow Companies (Roper Starch Worldwide 1999). To the question, "If you had the money, how interested would you be in taking this adventure?" 35% answered 'interested' or 'very interested'. An astonishing 38% indicated a year's salary or more when asked, "If you could save up, how many year's income equivalent would you pay for such an experience?" This question, however, may have been seriously flawed as respondents may have interpreted this question to be asking about the expected cost of such a trip rather than their preparedness to pay.


Although these studies are a start and may help to alert financial markets to the potential of investing in space tourism, they are unlikely alone to be anywhere near sufficient to convince Wall Street at this time. The encouraging aspect of these results is that they are reasonably consistent and positive. However, although they provide some sense of potential scale, several questions and doubts remain. Some of these are considered in the section to follow.

Space tourism development proponents acutely recognize the need for additional market research. "Carrying out more detailed market research is highly desirable in order to understand the requirements and potential of this market better" (Collins and Isozaki 1997). "[T]here have been no rigorous scientific surveys ? that can be 'taken to the bank' by a space tourism company. ? This is ironic and, to proponents of space development and particularly space tourism, frustrating, because such surveys would cost a pittance (<<1%), compared to current government programs, such as NASA's X-33, that are ostensibly aimed at reducing the cost of access to space. In addition, their value in promoting confidence in the market to potential space tourism investors would be vast, in comparison to the technology studies toward which the majority of U.S. government funds are currently being deployed" ( Simberg 2000, p. 3)


Given the high financial stakes involved in the development of space tourism, any research that helps to understand or reduce the investment risks must be of enormous benefit. The research conducted to date has naturally focussed on the central issue, "Is there a market for space tourism?" or more specifically, "How big is the market, in terms of order of magnitude, over a range of prices?" While price is clearly the single most important determinant of market demand in this context, it is important to recognize that the demand for space tourism is also a function of other product attributes, in this instance, most probably:

  • duration of journey,
  • conditions aboard the spacecraft,
  • available activities/experiences before, during and after the flight, and
  • perceived level of safety.

The size of the market will also depend on the number and timing of operators that go into business, the competitive services each operator offers, and the dynamics of market and technological developments. For example, a slow growth scenario might be that a single operator begins by offering flights of short duration (say about an hour or so) and charging very high prices in order to break even within a relatively short time frame. Alternatively, a higher growth scenario might involve a more ambitious first step involving much longer orbital flights and rudimentary accommodation with prices kept below costs initially in order to stimulate demand and achieve break even through growth in volume rather than through high prices. Based on the range of projects and visions currently at various stages on the 'drawing board' or under testing, any number of developmental scenarios from evolutionary to revolutionary might be possible. In summary, market demand depends not just on the prices offered but also on product attributes and the market structure in terms of its dynamics and competition. Hence further market research should also address these other non-price issues, but particularly the issue of what product attributes potential space tourists would value most, including how they would be prepared to trade-off certain attributes against others (but particularly against price).

Financial markets are likely to take a very skeptical view towards proposals to fund space tourism projects. The high costs and high risks (financial and otherwise) call for the 'bar to be raised' on the usual standards relating to the validity, reliability and credibility of any market research studies. As we are dealing with an entirely new product and market, market research studies will need to be particularly convincing. In addition, enterprise risk is greater than market risk. Even if research 'proves' a favorable market, additional competitive risks face individual enterprises. Financial markets need also be concerned with 'backing the right horse'.

How does market research meet the necessary standards in this instance? No single piece of market research or research method is ever without its limitations and flaws. Given the likely level of skepticism, is it possible at all to sufficiently convince possible investors? Any individual study can be criticized and on its own is unlikely to be conclusive. Perhaps the best approach therefore would be for the proponents of space tourism to fund a variety of different studies examining the market from alternative directions and methodologies so that, in combination, the 'weight of evidence' arising from these studies is consistent, mutually supportive, and therefore sufficiently compelling.

Two significant limitations in the market research summarized above are:

  1. they rely on what surveyed respondents say, or think, they would do if presented with the opportunity to travel into space, and
  2. on the issue of preparedness to pay, the survey questions leave aside the issue of saving.

Until public space travel and tourism grows further, it is impossible to get around the first limitation. But there may be better ways of asking hypothetical questions that provide more valid responses. This issue is discussed briefly in the following section. Of course, as soon as the first few space tourists successfully return, it will be possible to begin to calibrate and fine-tune predictive market studies. With regard to the second limitation, although an individual might indicate a willingness to say spend a year's income on the opportunity to travel into space, for the majority of people this would mean saving well in advance. Just because someone says they would be prepared to pay $X does not mean they have $X available at that time to spend in this fashion. The inability of many people to save adequately for their retirement suggests that estimates based on such figures may need to be discounted to some degree.

Another potentially useful avenue of market research would be to examine by analogy or extension the market for certain existing forms of adventure tourism. Apart from affordability, motivation is probably the other crucial question. The motivation for adventure evident in people like Charles Lindbergh, Steve Fossett, Richard Branson, and Dennis Tito; explorer-types like Antarctic trekkers or round-the-world solo yachtsmen; and thrill-seekers like mountain climbers, bungee jumpers, etc. demonstrate that a portion of the population is motivated enough to accept high risks and personal costs in order to achieve a personal dream or ambition. The early space tourism market is likely to be characterized by these sorts of people.

As an aside, it was interesting to note recently the flurry of attempts to be the first to circumnavigate the Earth non-stop in a balloon. The competition among the teams served to accelerate achievement of the goal. The same effect may well stimulate proponents of, and participants in, space tourism.


As noted above, until space tourism develops a little further and there are others to add to Dennis Tito, market research is necessarily limited to surveys of 'stated' preference or choice. Actual space travel produces data on 'revealed' preference or choice. Three approaches to measuring stated choice (SC) are evident as follows:

  1. Would you choose to receive A?
  2. Would you choose to receive A if it meant paying B?
  3. Would you be interested in receiving either A, B, C, or none of these if it meant respectively paying D, E, and F?

The more detailed the question in terms of its realism and explicit indication of the costs and trade-offs involved for each alternative, generally the more valid the results. In measuring the stated choice for space tourism, it would be necessary to be quite clear as to the attributes and costs of possible alternatives, including the 'no-choice' alternative. An additional benefit of this approach is that it provides not only a measure of overall demand but importantly also measures of the utility or trade-off between various product attributes, such as trip duration, comfort, activities, safety, and other features including price.

In recent years, a method for obtaining stated choice data, known as Choice Modeling, has advanced significantly. The current Nobel Prize recipients in economics, James Heckman and Daniel McFadden, won for their pioneering work in this area. The application of such an approach to space tourism would therefore benefit from a relatively high degree of credibility.

Stated choice methods are often criticized because they rely on what people say they will do rather than on what they actually do. This is healthy skepticism. However, stated choice methods have several advantages (Louviere, Hensher and Swait 2000, p. 21) in the following circumstances:

  • organizations need to estimate demand for new products with new attributes or features,
  • explanatory variables have little variability in the marketplace,
  • explanatory variables are highly collinear in the marketplace,
  • new variables are introduced that now explain choices,
  • observational data cannot satisfy model assumptions and/or contain statistical 'nasties' which lurk in real data,
  • observational data are time consuming and expensive to collect, and
  • the product is not traded in the real market.

In fact, "? [stated choice] surveys can produce data which are indistinguishable from their [revealed choice] counterparts" (Louviere et al. 2000, p. 21).

The main challenge in applying SC methods to space tourism lies in the fact that the concept of space tourism is relatively new and unfamiliar to most people who would be included in a survey. However, the general public is now much more knowledgeable and aware of space travel through the Apollo, Space Shuttle, and the various other space programs spanning the last four decades. The public has a much better understanding of the risks, technology, and environment of space travel than was the case say in the 1950s. Also, there has been a good deal of publicity in recent years ( Hall 1999, Dugan 1997, Calgary Herald 1996, Sunday Herald Sun 2000, Kluger 1998, Reno 1998, and Baker 2001) about the prospects for, and developments in space tourism, including news about testing of specially designed vehicles for space tourism, and most recently the experience of Dennis Tito as the world's first space tourist (The Age 2001). If designed with care, therefore, a stated-choice survey ought to be able to address this challenge. Stated choice methods have also been used with success in situations involving new concepts or one-off events (for example, see Louviere and Hensher, 1983).


In 2001, are we on the brink of a new space odyssey - the start of space tourism? The current public interest in space tourism and the determined and persistent efforts of a number of entrepreneurs, space transport technologists and other active proponents such as the Russians, the Japanese Rocket Society, and the Space Travel and Tourism Division of the US Space Transportation Association lend credence to suggestions that it may be just years rather than decades away. One of the most encouraging signs is that many space policy experts are now advocating the development of space tourism as the most effective means of radically reducing the cost of space transportation systems and thereby significantly facilitating a new era of space exploration and science in which funding and investment is based on a thriving commercial industry rather than being constrained by tightening government coffers (Commercial Space Transportation Study Alliance 1994).

Of course, history tells us that predictions of this nature can go badly astray. As with most future events, we can be more certain they will happen than we can be about the precise timing. What we can be more confident predicting is that it would seem rather unlikely as we look ahead from this first year of the 21st century, that space tourism will not become an enormously important component of the tourism industry before the century's end.

It is also clear that the success of space tourism development will depend upon extensive and rigorous research of the space tourism market. This latent market is not a fixed thing. Its shape, size and growth will be determined by the products, prices, competition and strategies developed and adopted by commercial space interests, guided by solid market research and resulting marketing strategies.

Although a number of market studies have been conducted to date, these have barely scratched the surface in terms of the needs that lie ahead. For academic research members of TTRA, there exist numerous research opportunities on the verge of this new industry. For TTRA researchers working in industry, proponents of space tourism development are looking to interest and work with travel and tourism enterprises in order to bring space tourism about.

It is hoped that this paper and the 2001 - A Space Odyssey: The Future of Space Tourism Special Conference Session including presentations by Professor Valene Smith (Hosts and Guests: The Reality of Space), Bob Haltermann ( Opening Space to the General Public), and Dr. Buzz Aldrin (Adventure Travel: The Shuttle and Beyond) will have informed and stimulated interest in this topic.

  1. Sven Abitzsch, 1996, "Prospects of Space Tourism", presented at the 9th European Aerospace Congress - Visions and Limits of Long-Term Aerospace Developments, May 15, 1996, Berlin.
  2. Peter Baker, 2001, "$20 Million Buys an American a Seat on Russian Rocket", International Herald Tribune, February 8, 2001, p. 2.
  3. Olly Barrett, 1999, "An Evaluation of the Potential Demand for Space Tourism Within the United Kingdom", unpublished paper (
  4. Calgary Herald, 1996, "Fly Me to the Moon", October 26, 1996, p. H8.
  5. Patrick Collins, Yoichi Iwasaki, Hideki Kanayama and Misuzu Ohnuki, 1994a, " Potential Demand for Passenger Travel to Orbit", Engineering Construction and Operations in Space IV, Proceedings of Space '94, American Society of Civil Engineers, Vol. 1, 578-586.
  6. Patrick Collins, Yoichi Iwasaki, Hideki Kanayama and Misuzu Ohnuki, 1994b, "Commercial Implications of Market Research on Space Tourism", Journal of Space Technology and Science, 10 (2), 3-11.
  7. Patrick Collins, Richard Stockmans and M Maita, 1995, "Demand for Space Tourism in America and Japan, and Its Implications for Future Space Activities", Sixth International Space Conference of Pacific-Basin Societies, Marina del Rey, California, Advances in the Astronautical Sciences, 91, 601-610.
  8. Patrick Collins, M Maita, R Stockmans and S Kobayashi, 1996, " Recent Efforts Towards the New Space Era", 7th American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics International Spaceplanes and Hypersonics Systems and Technology Conference, November 18-22, 1996, Norfolk: Virginia, AIAA paper no. 96-4581.
  9. Patrick Collins and Kohki Isozaki, 1997, "The JRS Space Tourism Study Program Phase 2", Proceedings of the 7th ISCOPS, Nagasaki, Japan, July 1997.
  10. Commercial Space Transportation Study Alliance, 1994, Commercial Space Transportation Study, unpublished.
  11. I. Jeanne Dugan, 1997, "You May Already be a Cosmonaut", Business Week, February 10, 1997, p. 44.
  12. Sarah Hall, 1999, "In Space, No One Can Hear You Having Fun", The Age, November 20, 1999, p. 20.
  13. J. Kluger, 1998, "Vacations in Orbit", Time, September 28, 1998, p. 93.
  14. Jordan J Louviere, and David A. Hensher ,1983, "Using Discrete Choice Models with Experimental Design to Forecast Consumer Demand for a Unique Cultural Event", Journal of Consumer Research, 10 (December), 348-361.
  15. Jordan J Louviere, David A. Hensher and Joffre D. Swait, 2000, "Stated Choice Methods: Analysis and Application", Cambridge University Press, Cambridge: UK.
  16. Alexandros Michalopoulos, 1999, "The Future of Commercial Airlines", 2nd International Symposium on Space Tourism, April 21-23, 1999, Bremen, Germany.
  17. National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Space Transportation Association, 1998, "General Public Space Travel and Tourism - Volume 1 Executive Summary".
  18. N. Reno, 1998, "Will Space be the Final Frontier for Travel, Tourism Industry?", Marketing News, American Marketing Association, 32 (2), p. 14.
  19. Roper Starch Worldwide, 1999, Spacecruiseship Study, unpublished.
  20. Rand Simberg, 2000, "Near-Term Prospects for Space Tourism", unpublished report prepared for The Sophron Foundation by Interglobal Space Lines, Inc.
  21. Sunday Herald Sun, 2000, "$40m Space Holiday", January 23, 2000, p. 15.
  22. The Age, 2001, "First Space Tourist Blasted Into Orbit", April 30, 2001, p. 9.
G I Crouch & G Crouch, 2001, "Researching the Space Tourism Market", Annual Conference Proceedings, Travel and Tourism Research Association.
Also downloadable from the space tourism market.shtml

 Bibliographic Index
Please send comments, critiques and queries to
All material copyright Space Future Consulting except as noted.