Space Tourism Could Be $1 Billion Industry In 10 Years, FAA Head Says
March 22, 2012

Space Tourism Could Be $1 Billion Industry In 10 Years, FAA Head Says

The head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Tuesday that space tourism will be a $1 billion industry in 10 years.

With the retirement of the space shuttle program, the burden to sending astronauts to low-orbit has been placed on the commercial industry for NASA by the Obama administration.

Now that these new spacecrafts are under development, a new industry for space tourism is also underway.

Commercial space flights by companies like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic may begin as early as 2013 or 2014, with seats starting at $200,000.

"Based on market studies, we expect to see this type of activity result in a $1 billion industry within the next 10 years," George Nield, associate administrator for the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation, told the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, according to a Reuters report.

"This is a new and growing industry. If you look at the last 25 years, almost all the launches were for the same basic purposes – to launch a satellite, such as a telecommunications satellite, to orbit – and that level of business for that part of the industry is continuing today. But there are several new segments that we see just on the horizon," Nield said.

NASA will be relying on SpaceX and Orbital Science Corp to fly cargo to the International Space Station, contracts that are worth a combined $3.5 billion.  Right now, the U.S. space agency is relying on Russia to taxi astronauts to and from the ISS.

As for space tourism, citizens have already gotten a chance to see the Earth from a new vantage point.

Dennis Tito, an American, paid about $20 million to spend 8 days in space in 2001.  Since Tito, six other space tourist have followed his tracks and stepped into a Russian Soyuz to launch into orbit.

“I found that looking out the window was by far the most impactful and ultimately life changing thing you can do in orbit,” Richard Garriott, the sixth space tourist, told redOrbit in an interview in January.  "When I saw the Texas gulf coast and the entire planet all in the same vista, it suddenly was this mental realization of I now know the true scale of the entire earth by direct observation.”

Garriott documented his adventure as a space tourist in a movie called "Man on a Mission", which was reviewed and available to read about on redOrbit.

Virgin Galactic already has about 3,000 people signed up to ride into space, bringing in about $600 million once launches begin.