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Acta Astronautica 108 (2015) 7991

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Acta Astronautica
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/actaastro

The first decade of commercial space tourism$


Yi-Wei Chang
Department of Tourism and Hospitality, China University of Science and Technology, 200 Chunghwa Street, Henshan Village, Hsinchu
County 31241, Taiwan

a r t i c l e i n f o abstract

Article history: In order to provide a basis for assessing the future prospects and challenges of space
Received 17 June 2014 tourism, this paper begins with a brief overview of the history of space tourism. This is
Received in revised form followed by a discussion on market demand and current developments in the academic
30 November 2014
community, as well as the status of traffic tools, regulations and legalization. In market
Accepted 8 December 2014
demand, although studies conducted in 1990s assumed the possibility of 500,000 per year
Available online 16 December 2014
in space tourists and several billion USD of annual revenue, in 2008 a relatively modest
Keywords: 13,000 per year was predicted. At this time traffic transport tools including the Soyuz
Orbital space tourism system, CST-100, DragonRider and International Space Station (ISS) can only provide a few
Suborbital space tourism
tens in spare seats for space tourists per year compared to the projected 20,000 plus seat
Lynx
capacity of the Lynx, Dream Chaser and SpaceShipTwo (SS2) fleets, which have the
Dream Chaser
SpaceShipOne/Two potential to conduct their first full suborbital test flight and first commercial flight within
White Knight One/Two the coming decade. Added to this, the US government has only a regulatory regime that
supports privately owned suborbital space tourism (SST) and no government funded
orbital space tourism (OST). These evidences reveal a very high and advantageous
potential for SST to form a space tourism industry in the coming decade, whereas the
possibility of OST is relatively low. However, even though the prosperity of SST in the
coming years is expectable, its maturity, reliability and safety still need to win the
confidence of the general public. For examples, the announcement of changes to fuel used
in the SS2 rocket engine in May 2014 and the crash of one SS2 while performing test flight
on 31 October 2014 indicated the need for much careful preparation, as any accident in
commercial operation could seriously damage or even kill its future prospects.
& 2014 IAA. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction 2001, the first 10 years of the 21st century had become the
first decade of commercial space tourism in history [3].
On 24 May 2000, Tom Rogers presented a paper on space In 2004 Laing and Crouch proposed five categories within
tourism at the 13th HIS Symposium held in Santorini, Greece the space tourism market [4]: (1) virtualvirtual reality
co-sponsored by the IAA and GASMA and Space Research [1]. helmets allowing people to gain a bird's eye view into space;
11 years later on 30 May 2011, Derek Webber speaking at the (2) terrestrialincorporating space camp, theme park, space
second International IAA Symposium on PHAS held in museum and other activities together to provide a space
Arcachon, France, summarized space tourism history since experience without leaving the Earth's surface; (3) near-space
2000 [2]. As commercial space tourism actually started in very high altitude supersonic cruises allowing people to
experience short periods of weightlessness and high altitude
sightseeing etc.; (4) suborbitalbringing people to sufficiently
$
This paper was presented during the 64th IAC in Beijing. high altitudes to watch the Earth's curvature and blackness of
E-mail address: eva77tw@cc.hc.cust.edu.tw space without leaving Earth's orbit; and (5) LEO/HEOactual

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actaastro.2014.12.004
0094-5765/& 2014 IAA. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
80 Y.-W. Chang / Acta Astronautica 108 (2015) 7991

Acronyms OST orbital space tourism


P2P point-to-point
AST Office of Commercial Space Transportation PHAS private human access to space
CONOPSconcept of operations PHS private human spaceflight
COPUOSCommittee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space PLC product life cycle
CST Crew Space Transportation RLV reusable launch vehicle
CTO Chief Technology Officer RM2 RocketMotorTwo
EADS European Aeronautic Defense and Space SCTS Scandinavian Connection To Space
EASA European Aviation Safety Agency SNC Sierra Nevada Corporation
ECLSS Environmental Control and Life Support System SpaceX Space Exploration Technologies
ESA European Space Agency SRLV suborbital reusable launch vehicle
EU European Union SS1 SpaceShipOne
FAA Federal Aviation Administration SS2 SpaceShipTwo
FAA/AST
Federal Aviation Administration's Office of SST suborbital space tourism
Commercial Space Transportation STA Space Transportation Association
GASMA Greek Aerospace Medical Association SXC Space Expedition Corporation
HEO high Earth orbit TBD to be determined
HIS humans in space TMA-M Transport, Modified, Anthropometric, and
HTHL horizontal takeoff and horizontal landing Modernized
IAA International Academy of Astronautics TSC The Spaceship Company
ICAO International Civil Aviation Organization UN United Nations
IISL International Institute of Space Law UNOOSA United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs
ISS International Space Station UNWTO United Nations World Tourism Organization
ISU International Space University USD United States Dollar
LED light-emitting diode USSR Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
LEO low Earth orbit VTVL vertical takeoff and vertical landing
NASA National Aeronautics and Space Administration WK1 White Knight One
NGO Nongovernmental Organization WK2 White Knight Two
O&M operations and maintenance

Earth orbital experiences lasting from hours to days or even On 16 September 2014, NASA announced a critical com-
weeks. However, the discussion in this paper only extends on ponent of Launch America, the country's highly anticipated
the last two categories (4) and (5), as SST and OST, respec- next chapter in human spaceflight. Boeing and SpaceX now
tively. After more than 10 years of development, major share the USD 6.8 billion space taxi contract, with USD 4.2
differences in these two categories are (1) the former will billion going to Boeing for its CST-100 Space Capsule Program
use privately developed spaceships while the latter uses and USD 2.6 billion to SpaceX for its Dragon Program. As a
governmental rockets and spacecraft as traveling tools; (2) result astronauts could be taking a ride on the space taxi pilot
tourists will only suborbit in the former but travel to LEO in program as soon as 2017. Using these privately designed and
the latter; and (3) cost per tourist-trip of the former will only manufactured capsules will allow NASA to transport humans
be about one hundredth of the latter [3,4,5,6,7,8,9]. to the ISS and beyond at a fraction of the cost. It will also
The first commercial OST tourist was created on 28 April allow NASA to focus on sending a manned mission to Mars,
2001. Before that, only governmental astronauts were and eventually, set up a viable system for space tourism [11].
allowed to go into space. Up to now, seven tourists have paid Therefore, both programs are funded by the USA Government
for and made eight trips to LEO by taking Russia's Soyuz and the time for setting up a viable space tourism system is
rockets and spacecraft to launch to the ISS. They are Dennis A. still to be determined.
Tito (2001.04.2805.06), Mark R. Shuttleworth (2002.04.25 Although there had already been seven space tourists in
05.05), Gregory Olsen, (2005.10.0110.11), Anousheh Ansari the first decade of space tourism, they all belonged to the
(2006.09.1809.29), Charles Simonyi (2007.04.0704.21 and orbital category. So far there have been no suborbital category
2009.05.2606.08), Richard Garriott (2008.10.1210.23), and space tourists. This is due to the fact that the experimental
Guy Laliberte (2009.09.3010.11). Earning the designation as SS1/WK1 combination retired immediately after winning the
the first space tourist, Tito's travel was contracted by the Ansari X prize by flying over 100 km altitude on 4 October
Russian commercial spaceflight company MirCorp. Then the 2004, and its follow-on, the SS2/WK2 combination intended
space tourism company Space Adventures of USA arranged for commercial SST operations is still under flight test.
all other trips. An eighth tourist could be Sara Brightman Furthermore, the change in fuel for SS2's rocket engine
who has already announced her space travel plan through announced by Virgin Galactic in May 2014 [12] and the crash
arrangement with Space Adventures [10]. of one SS2 while performing test flight on 31 October 2014
Y.-W. Chang / Acta Astronautica 108 (2015) 7991 81

may result in significant delays in both SS2's test flight and developments in several aspects are presented as: market
commercial flight operations. Meanwhile, XCOR's entry into demand in Section 3; traffic tool development in Section 4;
the SRLV spaceplane Lynx and SNC's Dream Chaser are still academic community in Section 5, and regulation and legality
under development [13]. Consequently, the first group of in Section 6. Section 7 briefly discusses the future prospects
suborbital tourists will not eventuate earlier than 2015. and challenges in space tourism, and final conclusions are
According to Futron Corporation's space tourism market given in Section 8.
study published in 2002, both OST and SST are promising
markets. It predicted that by 2021, the OST could have 60 2. Space tourism development history
passengers creating 300 million USD revenue annually,
while the SST could have 15,000 passengers yielding 700 As presented in Rogers' paper, there are four funda-
million USD annually. However, as seen in Table 1 compar- mental reasons why it is important that space tourism
ing both categories, based on current technological devel- should become a large and dynamic space activity: (1) as
opment status, it is clear that only SST could become mature an end in itself; (2) as a means to achieving other space
and prosperous in the coming decade [3,5]. ends; (3) as a facilitator of other space activities; and (4) as
In the academic community, as the highest nongovern- a clear expression of our society's character. Briefly, major
mental space organization in the world, the IAA held two space tourism events have developed in the following
PHAS space tourism symposiums on 2830 May 2008 and chronological order [1,3]:
30 May1 June 2011, respectively. Their purpose was to
review all topics associated with SST in order to pragmati-  1954: Even 3 years before the successful launch of the
cally identify the overall credibility of this activity and pin- first human's artificial satellite, the world's oldest travel
point any potential hurdles [14,15,16,17,18]. In 2008 Crouch company Thomas Cook in Britain had initiated the
et al. modeled consumer choice behavior in space tourism, Moon Register. Currently enthusiasts can sign an
and in 2012 Reddy et al. subsequently reviewed the research option for a commercial trip to the Moon, and the
dimensions of space tourism [9,19]. In 2010, Jakhu directed a company guarantees to provide tickets at the earliest
team to study the space tourism potential in India [20]. Their date [23,24].
findings and recommendations included the number of  Early to mid 1960s:
tourists, cost, target market, issues on safety, liability and  The first astronaut flew to Earth orbit on 12 April
insurance. Also, Chang et al. elaborated the future potential 1961. But it lacked the development of space tour-
prospects of research and commercial opportunities incu- ism in governmental agencies.
bated by SRLV from developments in the communities of  The expression space tourism was used for the first
industry, academia and aerospace agencies [21]. As to time. When the cold war did end, the military and
novelty seeking towards space tourism, a preliminary exam- civil space technologies then being developed would
ination of people in Taiwan has been performed recently be used, among other things, to allow our general
[22]. With data collected from a sample of 354 Taiwanese, public to begin to follow astronauts and cosmonauts
the research used mediated regression to examine the into space. This is the first time that I heard and
influence of the four types of consumer innovativeness on used the expression space tourism [1].
consumers' attitudes and acceptance of a space tourism  1968: Pan Am airlines announced plans for commercial
technology innovation, and the mediating role perceived flights to the Moon and started a waiting list. The First
novelty plays in the relationship. Findings indicate that Moon Flights Club was born and attracted more than
hedonic and social innovativeness are associated with 93,000 members. Fig. 1 shows the historical member-
improved consumer attitude, and that novelty partially ship card of First Moon Flights Club [25].
mediates the relationship between those two types of  1981: Robert Truax designed the reusable VolksRocket X-3
consumer innovativeness. (Arriba One or Skycycle X-3). He was the first real pioneer
This paper attempts to summarize the major progresses to try to build a privately funded manned suborbital rocket
made in space tourism during the first decade of the 21st for space tourism [26].
centuryor more precisely from 2001 up to now. After this  1982: Scaled Composites was established in Mojave
introductory section, a brief historical overview of space Spaceport, Mojave, California, USA. It is known for
tourism development is presented in Section 2. Then unconventional designs, for the use of non-metal

Table 1
Comparison of OST and SST.

Category OST SST

Traveling tool Soyuz systems and ISS Space taxi, USA SS2/WK2 Lynx Mark II
Owner and operator Multi-national space agencies Boeing, SpaceX (NASA funded) Virgin Galactic XCOR Space Expeditionsa
Technical maturity High Under development Under development Under development
Tourist capacity 1/flight TBD 6/flight 1/flight
Flight frequency 2/year TBD 10/day 4/day
Tourist capacity 2/year TBD 4 20,000/year 41,400/year

a
XCOR Aerospace acquired SXC on 30 June 2014. Based in Amsterdam with a regional office for Asia in Hong Kong, SXC was then named XCOR Space
Expeditions [13].
82 Y.-W. Chang / Acta Astronautica 108 (2015) 7991

 tourism study were published [33,34].


 XCOR Aerospace Company based at the Mojave
Spaceport, Mojave, California, USA was formed in
September 1999.
 The Russian commercial spaceflight company MirCorp
was created in December 1999 under the theme
Bringing People together in Space [35].
 FAA/AST brought the clear, long-term, commercial
vision to the development of space tourism that was
sorely lacking in the space industry [36].
 Two papers on long-term space tourism business
prospects were published [37,38].
 2001: First commercial space tourist Dennis Tito tra-
veled to ISS between 28 April and 6 May.
 2002: SCTS was established in Sweden to promote the
realization of space tourism [39].
Fig. 1. Membership card of First Moon Flights Club (source: Ref. 25).  2003:
 First flight of SS1 took place in May.
 MirCorp was closed after Mir's demise in 2001 [35].
composite materials, and for winning the Ansari X Prize  2004:
with the experimental spacecraft SS1 in 2004 [3].  Virgin Galactic Company was founded in Las Cruces,
 19824: A US Congress report noted that Only when a New Mexico, USA.
large number of our citizens, representative of a broad  The X Prize was renamed Ansari X Prize and was
cross-section of our society, begin to experience the space won by Scaled Composites' SS1.
adventure directly, will the space domain and space  On March 4, the USA House of Representatives
activities gradually begin to move into the mainstream of approved legislation designed to promote develop-
our non national security interests and concern [27]. ment of the emerging commercial human space
 1986: The Shuttle Challenger disaster introduced a flight industry [40].
strong note of caution into human spaceflight activities.  2005: TSC was founded by Virgin Group and Scaled
 Post 1986: Ashford and Collins's book on spaceflight Composites.
was published but space tourism as a business was  2006:
considered to be premature [28].  A mockup of the SS2 passenger cabin was unveiled
 Circa 1990: Patrick Collins visited Japan where he spoke at the NextFest exposition, New York in September.
of space tourism.  FAA issued the rules and regulations that will
 1990: The Space Transportation Association (STA) was govern private human space flight on December 15
formed. [41].
 19921993: STA prompted NASA to consider reusable  2007: EADS Astrium exhibited its spaceplane cockpit
space transportation vehicles for activities including mockup in Paris Airshow.
space tourism.  2008: First IAA PHAS Symposium was held in Arcachon,
 19931994: France in May.
 The Japanese Rocket Society published several jour-  2009: Official unveiling and rollout of SS2 took place on
nal issues devoted to space tourism [29,30]. December 7.
 Space tourism was studied as a subject in NASA courses.  2010: On 8 December, SpaceX successfully orbited and
 1995: NASA reached a formal agreement with STA to recovered its first Dragon space capsule to mark the
study the possibility of space tourism. first time a private company had successfully returned
 1996: The X Prize was announced by the X Prize an orbiting spacecraft to earth [42].
Foundation.  2011:
 1997:  On 25 May, President of the Mars Society Dr. Robert
 First international symposium on space tourism was Zubrin published an essay in the Washington Post:
held in Bremen, Germany in March. Zubrin's Proposal to Fund Pathway to the Stars -
 The flight manual of Japanese SSTO Kankoh Maru Fueling the transorbital railroad [43].
was published in July [31].  Second IAA PHAS Symposium was held in Arcachon,
 1998: France on 30 May to 1 June.
 On 23 September 1998, Mr. Goldin testified in the  2012: FAA issued a rocket testing permit to Scaled
Senate of USA that space tourism would soon Composites in June, allowing it to begin SS2 test flights
become affordable, the first time a NASA Adminis- powered by RM2.
trator had spoken out formally and positively in  2013:
public about space tourism [32].  SS2 conducted the first and second powered test
 Space Adventures, Ltd. was founded in Virginia, USA. flights on 29 April and 5 September, respectively.
19992000:  On 6 May, Roscosmos confirmed the plans of Sarah
 Two reports of the cooperative NASA and STA space Brightman's travel to ISS in October 2015.
Y.-W. Chang / Acta Astronautica 108 (2015) 7991 83

 2014:
 SS2 conducted the third powered test flight on
January10.
 A change to the fuel to be used in RM2 engine was
announced by the commercial spaceflight company
Virgin Galactic in May 2014.
 On 16 September, NASA announced a critical com-
ponent of Launch America, the country's highly
anticipated next chapter in human spaceflight. Boe-
ing and SpaceX share the USD 6.8 billion space
taxi contract [11].
 One of Virgin Galactic's SS2 crashed in the Mojave
Desert of California, USA while performing test flight
on 31 October 2014.
Fig. 2. European space tourism roadmap with its four sub-scenarios
By the end of the 20th century, more than half a dozen (source: Ref. 44).
small entrepreneurial companies were working on obtain-
ing private sector financing for the development of fully
reusable space transportation vehicles. A USA company
had been formed to design, fabricate, install and operate become a reality in the far future, with touristic trips to
hotels in LEO, and another USA company had joined with a existing orbital facilities such as ISS representing an inter-
Russian and a German company in announcing that they mediate step. Fig. 3 illustrates the Space Hotel Berlin and
intended to design, fabricate and install a 4000 cubic foot Space Hotel Europe concepts that could provide accom-
habitable element on the ISS. Also, the X Prize included the modation for about 50 tourists each. Preliminary analyses
first test trips of a new space transportation vehicle showed that excluding transportation, accommodation in
designed to carry two people in suborbital flight in early the Space Hotel Berlin would cost about 100,000 USD per
2000s [1]. This paper will focus on the first decade of the night. The Japanese space hotel concept as shown in Fig. 4
21st century, that is, from 2001 up to now. depicts a long cylindrical passenger tube in the center with
a big ring to install touristic rooms at one end and docking
3. Space tourism market demand ports at the other [44].
Recent data from the UNWTO indicated the strong
Every year, there are tens of millions people visiting the economic potential of space tourism. In 2012 the global
Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington DC and tourism industry was worth an estimated 1.15 trillion USD,
similar museums in other countries. Various other space with only one percent contributing 11.5 billion USD per
camps and conventions also represent the large and con- year. With a potential multi-billion dollar market, the well-
tinuing space tourism market taking place on Earth's sur- developed scientific and operational know-how of a fully
face. Earlier in the 1980s, an independent market study established space tourism business would clearly provide
made in the USA on true travel to space found that over 40 motivation for industrial investment in the space tourism
million people would like to take a trip on a space shuttle, sector in future. As early as 1994, it was expected that the
and some 55 million would like to take a cruise ship-like number of annual space tourists globally would be around
space trip. In total, they would be willing to pay some 900 500,000 if the price were 100,000 USD (see Fig. 5). This
billion USD to do so, or about 40 billion USD per year [27]. would represent revenue of 50 billion USD annually. From
Subsequent market studies conducted at the German Aero- these projections it is predicted as very possible for
space Center reported initial research indications that 4.3% revenue from space tourism to reach 5% of the total global
of the German population was willing to spend an annual tourism industry [44].
salary (around 10,000 USD) for a holiday-trip into space. However, despite positive projections in the 1990s,
However, despite such high levels of interest reported in more recent data has not been so optimistic. During a
these and other international studies, OST would not European Aeronautic Defense and Space (EADS) Company
feasibly be affordable in the short-term due to exorbitant conference at the Institution of Engineering and Technol-
space transportation costs in the order of several 10 million ogy in London in March 2008, EADS Astrium's chief
USD. But perhaps in the first decade of the 21st century, SST technology officer Robert Laine affirmed that public inter-
could present precursor activities that allow short flights in est could generate a demand exceeding the Futron forecast
space by ascending vertically or horizontally into suborbit, of only 13,000 passengers per year. Other studies con-
and then descending and landing at the departure airport. ducted by marketing agencies on behalf of Astrium had
Ticket prices in this case would be affordable within a range estimated a low limit of 15,000 passengers per year for a
of 10,000100,000 USD [44]. market potential equivalent to 3 billion USD revenue per
Fig. 2 shows the European space tourism roadmap with year based on the price of 200,000 USD a ticket [45].
four sub-scenarios. Most likely the space tourism business Astrium, now Airbus Defense & Space, is still continuing
could be initiated by short SST, followed by short OST in an the development of their Spaceplane; it is one of the
advanced reusable spacecraft that allows several orbits priorities of the company and they did a sub-scale drop
around Earth. Extended stays in space hotels would test recently in Singapore.
84 Y.-W. Chang / Acta Astronautica 108 (2015) 7991

Fig. 3. Space Hotel Berlin (left) and Space Hotel Europe (right) (source: Ref. 44).

Fig. 5. Expected passengers as a function of the cost/price per ticket


(source: Ref. 44).

systems, while the USA's Space Taxi system still is under


development. For SST, there are five systems under dev-
elopment.

4.1. Traffic tools for OST

So far, the first commercial OST trip was contracted by


MirCorp with final assistance from Space Adventures, and
all others were arranged by Space Adventures of USA.
Traveling tools consist of the Soyuz rocket and spacecraft
of Russia, and the ISS of multi nations. The first flight of
Fig. 4. Japanese space hotel concept (source: Ref. 44).
Soyuz rocket took place in 1966 and the Soyuz spacecraft
was launched in 1967. There are many variants in the
Considering all the above factors, with the global market Soyuz rocket family. Since 2001 the improved version has
being much larger in later years of the 2010s, an SST market been Soyuz-FG for human spaceflight. Total launches from
is expectable if the Lynx Mark II, SS2, Airbus Defense & 2001 to 2013 were 36all successful. As for Soyuz space-
Space's Spaceplane, Blue Origin's VTVL vehicle, and Sierra craft, the versions and numbers launched since 2000 were
Nevada Corporation's Dream Chaser are able to fulfill their Soyuz-TM (5 from 2000 to 2022), Soyuz-TMA (22 from
planned intention to conduct the first full suborbital test 2002 to 2012) and Soyuz TMA-M (11 from 2010 to 2013),
flight as well as the first commercial flight. where T means transport, M means modified, A means
anthropometric, and -M means modernized. The ISS is a
4. Development of trafc Tools for space tourism modular structure with the first version being launched in
1998. Therefore, Soyuz rockets and spacecraft have been
This section introduces the development and maturity used for 48 and 47 years, respectively. Even the ISS has
status of traffic tools for OST and SST. In OST, the Russian been functioning for 16 years [46,47]. Fig. 6 shows the
Soyuz rocket and spacecraft and the ISS are already mature Soyuz TMA-M spacecraft.
Y.-W. Chang / Acta Astronautica 108 (2015) 7991 85

Fig. 8. Crew Dragon of SpaceX (source: Ref. 49).

Fig. 6. Soyuz TMA-M (source: Ref. 46).

Fig. 9. Lynx Suborbital Vehicle of XCOR (source: Ref. 50).

safest and most reliable spacecraft ever made. Besides seats


for 7 passengers, the vehicle includes an ECLSS that provides
Fig. 7. CST-100 space capsule of Boeing (source: Ref. 48). a comfortable environment for crewmembers. It has a
powerful launch escape system design to provide escape
capability from the time crew members enter the vehicle all
In USA, the next chapter in human spaceflight of NASA's the way to orbit. Should an emergency occur during launch,
Space Taxi contract consists of the CST-100 Space Capsule eight SuperDraco engines built into the side walls of the
Program of Boeing and the Dragon Program of SpaceX. Dragon spacecraft will carry astronauts to safety [49]. Cur-
Selected as NASA's human spacecraft provider in September rently, the Dragon spacecraft provide resupplies to the ISS
2014, Boeing will manufacture the CST-100 (see Fig. 7), which under a Cargo Resupply Services contract with NASA.
was designed to transport up to seven passengers or a mix of
crew and cargo to orbit destinations such as the ISS and the
Bigelow planned station at LEO. Boeing plans to manufacture 4.2. Traffic tools for SST
three CST-100 structural test articles immediately. These test
articles will be used in a pad abort test in 2016 and first Although there is still no commercial tourism in the SST
unmanned test flight in early 2017, as well as the first crewed market, many kinds of traffic tools for SST are under devel-
flight to the ISS in mid-2017. They have 5 key features: opment including: Lynx Suborbital Vehicle, SS2/WK2 combi-
reusable up to 10 times, weldless structure, tablet technology, nation, Astrium (now Airbus Defense & Space) Spaceplane,
wireless internet and Boeing LED sky lighting [48]. VTVL Vehicle and Dream Chaser, etc.
The Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft of
SpaceX were designed to fly American astronauts to the ISS Lynx Suborbital Vehicle of XCOR: As shown in Fig. 9, the
under the Commercial Crew Program. SpaceX will launch the Lynx of XCOR is a two-seat, piloted space transport
Crew Dragon spacecraft (see Fig. 8) atop the Falcon 9 launch vehicle, which will take humans (one pilot and one
vehicle from Kennedy Space Center to the ISS under the passenger) and payloads on a suborbital flight and then
contract with NASA. Crew Dragon, a modern manned space- return safely to land at the takeoff runway. It is a HTHL
craft, will be capable of carrying up to seven crewmembers, vehicle using its own fully reusable rocket propulsion
reentering and landing propulsively almost anywhere on system. Major features include high tempo operations
Earth. After refueling, it can fly again for rapid reusability. It of up to four flights per day, rapid call-up with fast
was designed from the beginning to carry humans. There- turnaround between flights, low cost O&M, and a focus
fore, this upgraded human-rated vehicle will be one of the on safety and reliability. Lynx will operate as an FAA/
86 Y.-W. Chang / Acta Astronautica 108 (2015) 7991

Fig. 12. Dream Chaser of Sierra Nevada Company (source: Ref. 56).

Fig. 10. SS2 in a captive flight configuration underneath WK2 (source:


Ref. 51). In 2007, the firm revealed that it would be a HTHL Space-
plane and carry four passengers to reach a 100 km altitude.
At that time the firm intended to sell it to tourism
companies. Price per seat per trip was expected to be at
least USD 200,000, according to estimates. Two full market
analysis campaigns were conducted in 2007 and 2010,
respectively. A second one was conducted after the inter-
national financial crisis in 2010, and had the opportunity to
optimize the quality of models by focusing in the Asian
region. On 14 May 2014, a quarter-scale prototype of
SpacePane passed the first drop test in Singapore [52,53,54].
VTVL Vehicle of Blue Origin: Blue Origin is currently
developing technologies to enable human access to
space at dramatically lower cost and increased relia-
bility. It is focused on developing RLVs utilizing rocket-
powered VTVL technology. Its New Shepard system will
take astronauts to space on suborbital journeys [55].
Fig. 11. Spaceplane of Airbus Defense & Space (source: Ref. 53). Dream Chaser of SNC: Developed under the SNC Space
Exploration Systems product line, the Dream Chaser
(see Fig. 12) is a winged spacecraft that provides a
AST-licensed SRLV. XCOR has already passed the AST flexible, credible and affordable solution for ISS crew
licensing process with an earlier vehicle concept, and is transportation. It is also a viable path to the future of
actively involved in the development of the statutory commercial human space flight operations. It can carry
and regulatory framework within which Lynx will up to seven crewmembers. SNC currently has one
operate [50]. suborbital test vehicle with some flight tests already
SS2/WK2 of Virgin Galactic: As shown in Fig. 10, the performed, and its first orbital vehicle is now under
SS2/WK2 combination is a spaceship/mother-ship concept construction [56].
design and the whole system is currently under develop-
ment and flight test. The spaceship SS2 is actually an air Table 2 provides a comparison of the traffic tools for
launched glider with a rocket motor and a couple of extra OST and SST. At the current time, the most matured traffic
systems for spaceflight. It will carry six passengers and two tool for commercial SST operation is the Lynx of XCOR.
pilots. Each passenger gets the same seating position with Although it is obvious that the technological level of
two large windows, one side window and one overhead so private SST traffic tool development is not as high as
that everyone can get a chance to see the great view [51]. OST, the history is only about 10 yearsfrom the early
After the third powered flight test of SS2 performed on 10 2000s to now. One major difference in the design concept
January 2014, a change to the fuel to be used in its rocket is that the former was developed for space tourism
engine was announced by Virgin Galactic in May 2014. purposes whilst the latter was not.
Even worse, one of Virgin Galactic's SS2 crashed in the
Mojave Desert of California, USA while performing test 5. Developments in the academic community of space
flight on 31 October 2014. These interruptions might cause tourism
significant delay in its flight test as well as commercial
flight operations [12]. 5.1. Academic studies in space tourism
Suborbital SpacePlane of Astrium (now Airbus Defense &
Space): Airbus has been working on Spaceplane (see Fig. 11) As research into space tourism in the international
for nearly a decade but has said very little about the project. space academic community started about 15 years ago,
Y.-W. Chang / Acta Astronautica 108 (2015) 7991 87

Table 2
Comparison of development status of SST and OST traffic tools [4656].

Item Earth SST Earth OST

Traffic tools XCOR: Lynx Suborbital Vehicle Soyuz spacecraft/rocket and ISS (in service) (Space Taxi of USA is under
Virgin Galactic: SS2/WK2 development)
Airbus Defense & Space: Spaceplane
Blue Origin: VTVL Vehicle
SNC: Dream Chaser
Owner and operator Private companies Governmental agencies
Technology level/ Lower level/lower maturity (about 10 years Higher level/higher maturity (more than 50 years history)
development status history)
Passenger capacity 1 to 6/flight 1/flight
Fleet size Several vehicles/fleet N/A
Flight frequency Several to 10/day 2/year
Threshold to become an Low High
industry

many papers have been published already. Crouch et al. discouraging, with fifteen papers being selected for publica-
and Reddy et al. did their research from the point of view tion in a special issue of the Acta Astronautica Journal [16].
of tourism [9,19]. Crouch et al. studied potential customers 3 years later the second PHAS Symposium was held at the
and their choice behaviors on four types of space tourism: same place on 30 May to 1 June 2011. Due to the develop-
high-altitude jet fighter flights (to simulate high-g and ments of Lynx and SS2, this time there were more encoura-
zero-g flights), atmospheric zero-gravity flights (to simu- ging than discouraging discussions, with Webber invited to
late zero-g flight), short-duration suborbital flights (SST present the past, present, and future of space tourism [2].
category), and longer duration orbital trips into space (OST Following this a special issue of the Acta Astronautica Journal
category) [9]. Reddy et al. investigated the various research devoted to selected papers presented at the second PHAS
dimensions in space tourism by surveying potential space Symposium was published [18].
tourism customers in Southern England. Their under- For the purpose of promoting development of the space
standings of space tourism and key factors influencing tourism industry, many other NGOs have been established
intention to participate in space tourism was determined including the Space Tourism Society, Space Future, Hobby-
through analyzing motivations, behaviors, risks and Space, etc. For educational purposes the UniGalactic Space
decision-making processes. Qualitative analysis results Travel Magazine is published bimonthly in order to pre-
were presented based on visiting space and aviation sent new developments in space tourism and exploration
people in the Virgin Galactic, Airbus and Astrium Compa- within private companies such as Boeing, SpaceX, Orbital
nies. Survey results in Southern England held in mid-2011 Sciences, Airbus Defense & Space, XCOR, Virgin Galactic,
showed that 55% (38% male and 17% female) were very Blue Origin, SNC, Swiss Space Systems, etc. as well as
possible and possible in participating in space tourism, provide updates on NASA information.
36% (10.5% male and 25.5% female) were not so possible
and impossible, and 9% (4.7% male and 4.3% female) were
neutral [19]. 5.2. Courses in space tourism
Webber emphasized that we are now in between the
earlier successful OST (of millionaires) and the coming SST. At least three universities have opened space tourism
As the market size, carrier opportunities and economic courses including the Rochester Institute of Technology in
effectiveness are expectable; spaceport is ready to wel- New York, the Keio University in Tokyo, and the China
come passengers. However, despite private space tourism University of Science and Technology in Taipei [3].
being a logical and unavoidable next step, we should
approach it with a certain amount of caution since all its
associated technologies need to be developed gradually
and steadily to maturity. Space tourism must be developed 6. Development of regulations and laws in space tourism
in a model similar all other types of tourism so that it can
be run routinely [2]. The regulations and legalization aspects of commercial
In order to discuss the important issues of space tourism suborbital spaceflights are challenging due to the fact that
technology, the IAA (premier scientific and technological NGO up to today there is still no international consensus. It is in a
in the worldwide space community) held two PHAS (space gray area and very difficult to define, as both aviation and
tourism) symposiums [14,15,16,17,18]. The first one was at spaceflight for activities take place between air and space.
Arcachon, France on 2830 May 2008, with over 130 experts Basically, the legal regimes governing aviation and space-
from major companies in the space industry patiently and flights are fundamentally different, no matter whether they
enthusiastically discussing space tourism technologies, mar- are orbital or suborbital. Therefore, the solution is very
ket possibilities, safety regulations, finance, and other impor- difficult to attain without a clear and formal boundary being
tant issues. Their viewpoints were both encouraging and defined [17].
88 Y.-W. Chang / Acta Astronautica 108 (2015) 7991

6.1. Regulation and legalization in OST tourism industry is within the scope of commercial space
activities [5867].
When the USSR successfully launched the world's first
artificial satellite Sputnik 1 in 1957, many countries started 6.2. Regulation and legalization in SST
to discuss how to establish a system to ensure that outer
space could only be used for peaceful purposes. The two For SST, the USA Government issued Rules for Space
major space countries at that time were USA and USSR. Tourism in December 2005. These include screening proce-
The results were delivered to the UN in 1958 for further dures and emergency escape training, but no health require-
discussion internationally. As a consequence, the UN ments. According to USA law, any company that wants to
formed COPUOS in 1959 as an inter-governmental organi- launch a rocket to suborbit for paid passengers must apply for
zation [57]. The following year in 1960, an NGO named IISL a license from the FAA/AST. The license review process
was established with the purpose of defining the princi- emphasizes both public safety and the safety of property as
ples for governing outer space activities [58]. Their com- detailed in the Code of Federal Regulations: Title 14,
mon consensus was that Space law is an area of the law Chapter III (settled in accordance with the Commercial Space
that encompasses national and international law govern- Launch Amendments Act of 2004 [68]). As for OST, there are
ing activities in outer space. However, the problem that no similar regulations so far.
still exists is that international lawyers cannot provide a The PHSs could be defined as flights for humans intend-
consistent definition of outer space. Nevertheless most ing to reach or enter outer space: (a) at their own expense
agree that outer space includes the lowest altitude from or that of another private entity; (b) conducted by private
sea level above which an object can travel around within entities; or (c) both [60]. As of today, one of the major issues
Earth's orbit. This altitude is about 100 km or 60 miles about PHSs is how to properly regulate this specific new
[3,57,58]. activity in which the three distinct regimes of space law,
COPUOS has drafted and issued five International aviation law and high-risk adventure tourism law must be
Treaties and Agreements [57]: drawn together to determine solutions. First of all, the
application of space law to PHS principally derives from
The Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of the four treaties developed at the international level by the
States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, UN COPUOUS [57,58]. At that time the aviation law had
including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (the been primarily developed at national level and harmonized
Outer Space Treaty); in certain areas at the international level, with the 1944
the Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return Chicago Convention providing the baseline. As the high-risk
of Astronauts and the Return of Objects Launched into adventure tourism law had no international regime even
Outer Space (the Rescue Agreement); after the establishment of the UNWTO in 1975, the ICAO
the Convention on International Liability for Damage now pays attention to the need to appropriately regulate
Caused by Space Objects (the Liability Convention); PHS. However, the UN COPOUS has not, partly because the
the Convention on Registration of Objects Launched definition for outer space and its lower boundary is not
into Outer Space (the Registration Convention); and widely accepted.
the Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the The international space law is ambiguous in accom-
Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (the Moon Agreement). modating the suborbital activities, and some provisions of
the UN outer space treaties would seem to exclude them.
There are also similar difficulties in the international air
It also issued five Declarations and International Prin-
law in dealing with this activity, since the classic definition
ciples [57]:
of aircraft does not encompass the specific type of rocket-
powered vehicles. As a consequence, in the absence of a
The Declaration of Legal Principles Governing the
uniform international regime, each state has the freedom
Activities of States in the Exploration and Uses of Outer
to regulate human suborbital flight operations within its
Space (1963);
airspace. In December 2004, the USA Government issued
the Principles Governing the Use by States of Artificial
the rules for SST [68], with contents including screening
Earth Satellites for International Direct Television
procedures and emergency escape training. There are no
Broadcasting (1982);
health requirements. As mentioned above, any company
the Principles Relating to Remote Sensing of the Earth
that wants to launch a rocket to suborbit for paid passen-
from Outer Space (1986);
gers must apply for a license from the FAA/AST, with the
the Principles Relevant to the Use of Nuclear Power
review process emphasizing public safety and the safety of
Sources in Outer Space (1992); and
property. This means that subsequent regulations settled
the Declaration on International Cooperation in the
by the FAA have a series of requirements for companies
Exploration and Use of Outer Space for the Benefit
that want to operate these flights to follow, thus enabling a
and Interest of All States, Taking into Particular Account
market to develop [68].
the Needs of Developing Countries (1996).
On the other side of the Atlantic, both the ESA and
representatives from the EASA of EU seemed to regard space
Besides these, based on UN's space policies many countries activity as aviation, partly due to the regulation and certi-
are now defining and issuing their own space laws, especially fication competences of EASA. Because of their differences,
in the area of commercial space activities. Inevitably, the space it was uncertain when space activity would be considered
Y.-W. Chang / Acta Astronautica 108 (2015) 7991 89

aviation or spaceflight. However, as the characterizations of been actively involved in the development of the statutory
both are important for the industry as well as for a stable and regulatory framework within which Lynx will operate.
regulatory mechanism, following the recent developments Using the same CONOPS as XCOR's earlier rocket-powered
the view has changed. In the context of the FAST20XX vehicles, much about how to operate the Lynx has been
project that started in 2009 under the 7th Framework learned [50].
Programme of the EU, the authors reexamined the legal On the other hand, although SS2 started powered flight-
status of private human suborbital flight, and researched testing in April 2013, a fuel change announcement was
whether it might be regulated as aviation or spaceflight. released in May 2014 and one of Virgin Galactic's SS2
Besides USA and EU, no similar regulatory issues have been crashed while performing test flight on 31 October 2014.
found for suborbital spaceflights [65,66]. Therefore, there are still challenges to be faced by SS2 due
For the longer term and international considerations, it to the following evidences: (1) the development of RM2 has
has been suggested in Ref. [66] that the best solution for been problematic and caused fuel change as well as
regulation may be to create a sui generis legal regime extensive time delays; (2) SS2 is still waiting for the new
specifically for the particular nature of suborbital space- RM2 to conduct further powered flight testing, with many
flights. Suborbital transportation is neither aviation nor full profile flight tests needed; (3) the root cause of SS2's
spaceflight; it is rather something of their combination or crash is still under investigation which could take a long
in between. In order to overcome and resolve the current time; (4) first full profile as well as first commercial flight
deficiencies of both disciplines, a new legal regime would was seriously postponed due to problems encountered in
be more appropriate and able to combine the scopes of both powered flight testing; and (5) price for early stage SST has
air and space law. And even more, it could include some been raised from the original 200,000 USD to 250,000 USD.
points beyond air and space law as necessary [65,66]. The remaining three SRLVs for SST still under develop-
ment are Suborbital Spaceplane of Airbus Defense & Space,
7. Future prospects and challenges in space tourism VTVL of Blue Origin, and Dream Chaser of SNC. However,
compared to OST, the prospect of SST in the coming decade
The potential prospects and challenges in the future are is promising and expectable. Nevertheless, many more
assumed for both OST and SST in this section. flight tests are required in both Lynx and SS2/WK2 in order
to win potential customers' confidence on the maturity of
7.1. Future prospects and challenges in OST technology development, the maturity of mission opera-
tions, reliability and safety, and the degree of friendly travel.
For the future prospects of space tourism it is reason- Any accident or major problem in the early phases of
able to look into possible developments in the coming commercial operation could bring the industry to a halt
decade. So far all commercial space travelers have used the and severely jeopardize its future [45].
Soyuz system and ISS. The Soyuz system has been operat- Also, from the point of view of market size, as seen in
ing reliably since the dawn of the space age and has been Table 1 the combined capacity of XCOR Lynx and Virgin
the sole vehicle used to transport governmental astronauts Galactic SS2 will reach more than 21,400 tourists per year.
to ISS following Shuttle's decommissioning. And for the However, although the future prospects of SST are expect-
supplies transportation to ISS, both Soyuz and Falcon 9 able, the SST market has its uncertainties. In the case of
plus Dragon systems can do the service. Although the size of market demand being smaller than the capacity,
Russian government has continued in its willingness to such as 13,00015,000 tourists per year according to EADS
offer tourist flights in any spare seat on Soyuz, there is Astrium's estimation, the companies running the business
considerable constraint because it is such a busy system could be in trouble.
[2]. The next chapter of USA's human spaceflight was just Several years ago a potential solution was highlighted by
awarded to Boeing and SpaceX on 16 September 2014 by Peeters: from suborbital space tourism to commercial per-
NASA. Even after Boeing's CST-100 Space Capsule and sonal spaceflight [69]. Based upon work done at the ISU the
SpaceX's Crew Dragon begin service in 2017, total capacity oligopolistic character of suborbital space tourism has been
for tourists will remain limited. Furthermore, the time for linked to marketing and PLC mechanisms, and space tourism
NASA's set up of a viable system for space tourism from its as a profitable sector would require a follow-on strategy. On
next chapter human spaceflight is still to be determined one hand, OST could become an extension of PLC, while on
[11]. Therefore, as future government policies are uncer- the other hand Peeters assumed that P2P commercial space
tain, the OST probably can only be developed to a small transport would become the long term sustainable market
size tourism industry in the coming decade. for SST. This is probably the reason that some companies
have been conservative about the expansion of their capa-
7.2. Future prospects and challenges in SST cities, even if they have sufficient potential.

The OST has already taken place, SST is yet to start despite 8. Conclusions
bring a far easier service to provide. So far a regulatory regime
for the support of SST has been appointed in the USA with the This brief review of the development of space tourism,
FAA appointed as agency [2]. As mentioned above, the Lynx current status of market demand, traffic tools development,
will operate as an FAA/AST-licensed suborbital reusable academic community development, and regulations and
launch vehicle. XCOR already has successfully passed the legalization development, assists in gaining an understand-
AST licensing process with an earlier vehicle concept, and has ing of the future prospects and challenges of space tourism.
90 Y.-W. Chang / Acta Astronautica 108 (2015) 7991

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