Many people don't realize that space tourism is here now. There
have already been a handful of astronauts or cosmonauts sent upon
Russian Soyuz spacecraft to spend time on the International Space
Station (ISS). These flights have cost upwards of $20 million.
A spaceport in Kazakhstan is used for that mission. The next
round of space tourism flights however will not fly that high.
They are intended to go into low earth orbit (LEO) about 60 miles
high and cost upwards of $90,000. At least a dozen companies are
now working diligently on their aircraft so that they can send
space tourists into LEO within the next year or two.
This brings to question, of what about the future spaceports
that will need to be built to accommodate such an industry? Right
now there are about a dozen spaceports either being built or retooled
to accommodate larger aircraft and more people.
Right now there are spaceports already in action, being built
or built up in New Mexico, California, Oklahoma, Virginia, Alaska,
Texas, Florida, China, Dubai, Kazakhstan, Russia, Algeria, Kenya,
Australia, Japan, French Guiana, India, Israel, Marshall Islands,
Iran, Sweden and Singapore.
Some of the older spaceports such as that in Kazakhstan do not
have runways since they have been built for vertical takeoffs
and landings only. The Baikonur Spaceport in Kazakhstan has been
launching tourists into space to the ISS for the past decade.
The newer spaceports such as Spaceport
America in New Mexico, do have long runways
This is to accommodate spaceplanes, which takeoff and land on
the same runway or airplane / spacecraft dual combinations such
as Virgin Galactic is using. The Virgin Galactic WhiteKnightTwo
airplane will carry the VSS Enterprise (SpaceShipTwo) spacecraft
up to about 60,000 feet before launching it.
Besides launching out of New Mexico, Virgin Galactic will also
launch its space tourism vessels out of Spaceport Sweden. Space
Adventures, which currently sends passengers to the ISS from Kazakhstan
will, in the future, be using the United Arab Emirates Spaceport
based in Dubai.
In the Future
In the near future, more spaceports will continue to pop up in
smaller countries across the globe especially those that have
less restrictive regulations for space travel. As the space tourism
industry develops, spaceplanes will need shorter runways and vertical
launch rocket will need smaller areas in which to launch.
Over a relatively short period of time, regular airports will
be able to absorb spaceplane travel and tourists won't have to
fly off to exotic destinations in order to go into space. Runways
that take off over water such on the U. S. East and West coasts
will be the first to allow spaceplanes to take off on airport
runways since the risk will be minimal to those on the ground.
Vertical launch facilities will pop up all over the Midwest as
some farmers will realize there is money to be made with putting
such a facility in their corn or wheat fields. In fact, wind farms
and vertical launch spaceports may displace the growing of crops
for some farmers especially where land is not as fertile as it
used to be.
In the next 5 years, space tourists in LEO will experience only
a few minutes of weightlessness. But in the next 10 to 15 years
that will be extended to hours of weightlessness. Also, in the
next 15 to 20 years the price of space tourism will come down
so much that a flight to LEO will be about the same as a vacation
to Club Med.
Future spaceports will also be luxury establishments based upon
green technology. The future spaceports will be built with methods
and materials that make for a small carbon footprint. Wind energy,
solar panels, carbon fiber materials, recyclable materials, zero
emission fuels and more will be used at the future spaceports
to insure they are not adding to environmental pollution.
Of course, future spaceports will be high tech enabled including
Wifi, High def, 3D, in-house space simulators. People will be
able to upload their experiences beginning to end via high def
video to their favorite social media sites.
Beyond the 30 years in the future mark, spaceports will be shuttling
people to space hotels, the Moon and most likely a few will be
venturing to Mars by then. In fact there will be so many spacecraft
in flight by then a whole, complex traffic control system similar
to airplanes and airports right now, will have to be worked out
internationally to accommodate all of the traffic.
Space debris reports will be common and communicated to the captains
and crews of the spacecraft. There will also be much automation
where some craft will fly without captain and crew. By
this time, spaceports and airports will have become one
and it will be up to each traveler where he or she would
like to go that day or on a moment's notice.
Written by Kevin Lepton