December 1, 2021

Boeing Enters Space Race for Tourist Dollars

International Space Station

All Aboard for the International Space Station

US aerospace giant Boeing has unveiled plans for entering the space tourism industry, edging out their Russian competition in price, and their British competitors in distance traveled.

Unlike the Sir Richard Branson’s $200,000 a seat Virgin Galactic, which barely reaches the boundary of defined space (approximately 110 km in altitude), Boeing’s plans to take passengers all the way to the International Space Station; an impressive 270-460 km high. The ISS’ elliptical orbit results in significant changes in altitude.

Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft, the vehicle that has carried seven tourists to the International Space Station over the past decade, charges passengers approximately $45 million each  for the eight-day space voyage. Well-known Soyuz space tourists include Guy Laliberté, Cirque du Soleil CEO, Dennis Tito,    American entrepreneur as well as Richard Garriott, computer game designer.

Boeing declined quoting a ticket price, but said the cost will be competitive with the Russian trips. Boeing states that it is currently talking with potential customers.

Boeing won an $18 million contract earlier this year for fundamental design and testing for a 7-person space capsule, designed to take off to the Space Station in 2015. NASA intends to use a four member crew, leaving three open seats for tourists.

Boeing’s would be the first private tourist spacecraft to be launched from within the United States. Boeing is targeting Cape Canaveral, Florida, which saw its first rocket launch in 1950, as a probable site for launch.

However, Boeing cautions, that the US government must help pay for it if the effort is to succeed. The investment and risk  is too high to provide the exotic travel service as an entirely independent enterprise. Boeing is relying upon congress to maintain funding for the project, beyond the $18 million in seed money, in order for the enterprise to get off the ground.