The main problem about space is how much it costs to get there: it's too expensive! And that's mainly because launch vehicles are expendable - either entirely, like satellite launchers, or partly, like the space shuttle.

So we need reusable launch vehicles. The trouble is that these will not only reduce the cost of launch - they'll also put the makers out of business, unless there's more to launch than just a few satellites a year, as there are today.

Fortunately there's a market that will generate far more launch business than satellites ever well - passenger travel. Market Research has shown that the idea of space tourism is very very popular. And so, just like aviation, the launch industry is going to find that most of its business will be carrying passengers.

But this idea of Space Tourism isn't at all familiar to most people, including the space industry, who are used to the idea that space is for research or military activities. Few people are aware of how much work has been done to show that tourism is a realistic goal, and how rapidly this work is now progressing.

Once travel to orbit becomes a commercial service, the question of how to get to space will be mainly one of saving up for a ticket - or looking for work in one of the many space hotels that will be built. Space offers unique pleasures including the view, and zero gravity activities that provide a whole range of things to do on an orbital holiday - including space sports.

Importantly, and contrary to what many people assume, the space agencies are not at all interested in space tourism, and are not trying to bring it about. This is a pity because space activities will never be profitable until tourism services begin, remaining small-scale, expensive, and dependent on taxes which come from you - which would you prefer?

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.
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Space Sports
Once hotel companies start to build and operate orbital accommodation, they're going to be endlessly improving it, and competing to build more and more exotic facilities. One of the areas in which they'll compete will be in building zero-G sports centers. Basically, the bigger these are the more interesting the opportunities they'll provide.
Zero gravity stadiums

In the first stages they'll be maybe 20 meters across, which will be big enough for zero-G gymnastics, ballet, and a range of sports - if not football! For example zero-G versions of existing terrestrial sports, such as table-tennis, badminton, tennis, and even basketball.

As the structures get larger, a wider range of games will become possible, with room for spectators too. Then, once hotels include substantial rotating sections, ball-games will have the new feature that the ball will follow a kind of spiraling path, which will literally add a new dimension to throwing and catching!

Entirely new sports

Once you're thinking about stadium-based sports like football, other new kinds of possibilities open up, like momentum transfer between team-members and opponents, giving "launch assistance" to each other, and others.

Another area is water sports. A zero-gravity "water-room" with some large "blobs" of water which you can throw at each other, or through which you can dive, will provide a lot of unique entertainment. But there will be a new safety problem to solve. Probably everyone will be required to wear a mouthpiece for an emergency air supply, because in zero-G you won't float to the "top" of a blob of water, of course. So if everyone has a few minutes' air-supply, that may avoid some panic attacks!

And once there are rotating hotels, true rotating swimming pools will get built, in which you can swim around the interior surface, and then dive out to float in the zero gravity in the center! Water's heavy, though - 1 ton/cubic meter - so quite a modest pool will contain 1000 tons of water - which will be a serious investment, even at only $100,000 / ton launch costs! So those facilities will be part of large orbital complexes.

The game's the same but the rules seem to have changed

And of course entirely new sports will also be invented, that take advantage of zero-G or artificial gravity. But, for now, we'll leave them to your imaginations!

The big event

As we said above, things will start small, and grow bigger. So holding Olympic games in an orbiting zero-gravity stadium 100 meters in diameter, for example, is obviously not a realistic project in the near future. But instead of dismissing it as a ridiculous fantasy - as many "space industry" people would - consider that:

  1. It's unquestionably technically possible - a student could estimate the structural stresses involved.
  2. Its feasibility depends on straightforward business economics, and specifically on the cost of launch, and the market value of media rights.
  3. It's an interesting question how soon after the beginning of space tourism it will happen - it will depend mainly on the growth rate of space tourism services.

And while it would be easy to say "Orbital Olympics are at least 50 years away" we should also remember that when a new service gets really popular, business growth rates can be spectacular. For example, recently Internet-connectable personal computers and mobile-telephones have shown fantastic growth rates, with both sales and investment growing by tens of $billions per year in just a single country! Why shouldn't there be a global "space tourism boom" on a similar scale? In that case it could lead to spectacular growth rates. And before space tourism reaches a scale of even 1 million passengers per year, large-scale sports facilities will certainly be built in orbit - because they'll be good business investments for hotel companies.

An incentive for business?

For such a boom to happen there are plenty of spare resources - since the end of the cold war the aerospace industry has had nothing else to do: employment has already shrunk by millions world-wide; the number of companies has dropped sharply; and it isn't over yet. There's talk of further reduction in the number of helicopter makers, satellite makers and launch vehicle makers! So it could be a case of "Light the blue touch-paper - and stand back!" We look forward to it.

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