Space tourism, a business in search of sustainability

Jeff Bezos, with his company, Blue Origin, has been a space tourist shortly after Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic launch. The rocket, named “New Shepard”, departed from Texas and reached over 100 km in altitude. The flight lasted 11 minutes and together with Jeff Bezos there were three other people on board, including his brother Mark and the astronaut Wally Funk. 

As explained by Anilkumar Dave from Infinite Area, in the first quarter of 2021, investments in the space sector of 4.5 billion have already been achieved. Business models expand in space so that there will be a commoditisation of space assets. There are also companies that are bringing new expertise, such as in the case of production of food for future space tourists. 

Regarding prices and services, Blue Origin didn’t communicate a price, but a seat on the first flight was auctioned for $ 28 million. The cost includes the flight up to a height of 100 km, the overnight stay at the launch site and a specific training. Virgin Galactic’s first-selling tickets cost between $ 200,000 and $ 250,000 each, and the company has communicated that prices will rise. It includes the flight up to a height of 80 km, the space suit and a light training in which participants are instructed on what will happen.
SpaceX is considering space tourism too, but much more ambitious, for several days and to a much higher height. The program developed by Axiom for SpaceX will cost $ 55 million and will include training, medical support, 8 days aboard the host station including clothing and other supplies.

Many experts think that the economic value of this sector will grow rapidly. It has already reached a turnover of 651 million dollars in 2020 and it is estimated to reach 1.7 billion by 2027 with a growth rate of 152%. Much of the market value will be suborbital tourism and China is expected to absorb much of the market. 

A controversial topic is sustainability. On the one hand, those who invest in the space tourism sector, primarily Bezos and Branson themselves, tend to minimise the environmental impact. On the other hand, scientists and experts have long claimed that the marketing of spatial launches will raise the poles temperature of at least one degree Celsius.   

At Twissen, we observed that space tourism is a growing sector, whose strong economic potential has to be monitored over time. However, it is necessary to assess whether the level of emissions can be justified by the number of passengers, considering that sustainability is always more a fundamental pillar for emerging business models.