With summer here, many people are thinking about their holiday destination. At the European Space Agency, this means thinking about a holiday in space! ESA is planning to help up to three private companies develop business plans to get their space tourism ventures off the ground.
The new initiative is called 'The Survey of European Privately-funded Vehicles for Commercial Human Spaceflight', and is part of ESA's General Studies Programme (GSP), whose role is to assess the feasibility of mission concepts. Under this initiative, private companies across Europe already involved in planning activities for space tourism are invited to submit their space tourism plans.
ESA's General Studies Programme will select up to three of the proposals for further study. Each selected company will receive 150,000 Euro to further develop their plans. A team of experts from ESA's Launchers Directorate, who are involved in the development of the technologies for the next generation launcher, will manage the selected studies and share their expertise with the companies.
The aim of the study will be to critically review the spacecraft design and mission profiles, ensuring they are technically feasible, and develop sound business plans in order to allow companies to approach potential investors. An interesting aspect of the study will be to define the experiences the space tourists can expect, such as how much time they will spend in weightlessness, how much training they will need and how fit they need to be.
ESA's interest in space tourism has been increasing thanks to a number of internal studies conducted over the last three years. In each case, the studies showed the potential for developing the commercial human spaceflight market. This is the first time an ESA study aims to involve private companies working in the development of crewed space vehicles for the space tourism market.
This study is set to provide interesting inputs to ESA's technology programmes, while at the same time establish links between ESA and the space tourism industry.
ESA invites interested companies to send their questions to firstname.lastname@example.org before 25 July 2006. The questions, along with the answers, are posted on ESA's GSP website.