Space travel is no longer science fiction thanks to recent advances in technology led by the world’s biggest tech companies. You may have heard of Elon Musk’s ambitious SpaceX project. However, he is not the only one trying to develop space tourism. What is currently available and how much does it cost?
Putting humans in space aside, there are actually very tangible costs for space travel – at least for objects. Satellites, for instance, are routinely launched into space.
The rates for this vary. SpaceX can deploy a satellite in space for $62 million if it weighs no more than 50,000 pounds. The United Launch Alliance Atlas V charges $73 million for a slightly lighter load of 41,000 pounds. These are the basic rates for simply sending something off into space. Additional services and requests, which may complicate the project, cost extra.
Visit the ISS
If you actually want to go into space, consider visiting the International Space Station. There is an international team of astronauts on it, as well as scheduled visits. These are not regular tourist excursions — the ISS needs supplies and a change of personnel. But since the trips are happening anyway, the agency responsible for them has found a way to make a profit by offering free seats for sale.
Currently, Soyuz is the only space vehicle in operation. Since Russia has a monopoly on it, they determine the prices. NASA has bought seats on Soyuz before — each set them back about $75 million.
Nevertheless, with better competition in the space travel market, you can hope that prices will decrease. SpaceX is working on the Crew Dragon spacecraft, expected to launch later this year. Boeing is getting ready to reveal their Starliner soon. The exact price of a trip with either of those is still unknown, but it is projected around $58 million, significantly cheaper than a Soyuz seat.
A company called Space Adventures has also sent people on private week-long trips to the ISS. A few lucky, adventurous millionaires managed the feat for $20–$35 million.
Anywhere Else in Space
In case the ISS is not your thing — or not to your budget — you still have options.
Space technically begins at the Karman line, which lies around 50 to 62 miles above sea level. The Karman line represents the height at which the Earth’s atmosphere ends and the thermosphere (what you probably think of as “outer space”) begins.
Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic plans to offer short expeditions to the Karman line, with prices advertised as low as $250,000 per seat according to data from financial technology company Sambla.fi. Virgin has actually sold over 600 of these tickets already, though no flights have taken place yet. Reportedly, the company is taking their time to improve their spacecraft and make sure it is safe to travel in.
You likely won’t be surprised to hear that the richest person in the world, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos also dabbles in space tourism. His company, Blue Origin, offers a similar service to Virgin Galactic. However, there is little information about when they plan to launch these short suborbital trips. Neither dates nor prices are currently available.