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starship-design: Billionaires Target Space Tourism

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Billionaires Target Space Tourism

Two New Companies Add Reality to Space Future's Vision  

              Over the past few weeks, two self-made billionaire
businessmen have established companies with the
              stated objective of playing roles in the commercial space
tourism industry that is becoming increasingly
              widely recognized as the true future of space activities.  

              Virgin Galactic Airways has been established in Britain by
Richard Branson, the founder and chairman of
              Virgin Atlantic Airways and other Virgin Group companies,
to provide space tourism services. Staff are
              currently visiting companies working on reusable launch
vehicles - though they're downplaying
              expectations that they will make any major moves soon.
Branson announced more than 2 years ago that
              one day he hoped to offer space travel services - but only
after the race to perform the first
              round-the-world balloon flight was over. True to his word,
he is now moving in that direction, and it will be
              very interesting to follow the moves he makes in this new

              Bigelow Aerospace has been established in Las Vegas by
Robert Bigelow, the founder and president of
              Budget Suites of America, a hotel and apartment chain in
the southern United States, and a group of
              related companies. Based on its founder's expertise in
building and operating popular low-cost
              accommodation on Earth, Bigelow Aerospace is planning to
"design, develop, assemble and market fully
              equipped, modular habitats that can be deployed as safe,
financially viable space complexes". Thus it is
              aiming to provide accommodation in space rather than
transportation services to carry guests between
              Earth and space. Bigelow Aerospace is currently hiring
staff: advertisements have been placed in Space
              News, Aviation Week and elsewhere. Like Virgin Galactic,
Bigelow Aerospace is playing down the idea
              that it will make any dramatic moves soon.  

              The Power of Entrepreneurs  

              The emergence of Richard Branson and Robert Bigelow as
business champions in the new field of space
              tourism fits Space Future's vision exactly. As recognition
of the enormous business potential in this area
              grows, it is becoming attractive to successful
business-people with a taste for pioneering.  

              It is worth noting that self-made business-people have
much greater freedom to take new initiatives than
              the heads of large publicly-held companies, whose
shareholders generally keep strong pressure on them
              to keep to the areas in which they already have expertise.
(Some years ago Richard Branson even took
              his company private after finding the influence of
institutional shareholders too constraining.) So the
              arrival in 1999 of two experienced entrepreneurs with the
ability to invest hundreds of $millions to develop
              space tourism without needing to seek approval from anyone
(except their families!) is very promising.  

              It will be extremely interesting to follow the moves these
companies make in future, decided with the aim
              of making money from space tourism. If their leaders can
successfully apply their exceptional business
              skills in this new arena of activity, the names of Bigelow
and Virgin will become as famous in future as
              Cunard and Boeing are in older travel industries.  

              Space Future wishes both companies the greatest good
fortune. And we hope that their founders will be
              as successful in offering space tourism services as they
have been to date in other areas of business.  

              See also "Billionaire Shops for Space Tourism Vehicle",
Space News, May 10, 1999, p 6.  
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