13:42 04 August 2012
In their first decade of launching, commercial space flights are estimated to result in between $600m-$1.6bn worth of revenue, studies suggest.
American researchers have analysed the market potential and have discovered that tourism drives roughly 80% of the industry's demand for suborbital flights.
Such trips see passengers soar 63 miles above the earth's surface before re-entering. This results in minutes of floating microgravity and a view of the Earth from above it while the black space surrounds the vista.
And now the (second) space race is on. As expected, adventuring business magnate Richard Branson has a big stake in the market already. His Virgin Galactic, an offshoot of Richard Branson's London-based Virgin Group, is one of six firms developing reusable suborbital spaceships.
However, the cost will be quite considerable to the public. A trip on Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, a six-passenger, two-pilot vehicle should cost around $200,000 after tests. Coming in slightly cheaper would be a $95,000 flight on privately held XCOR Aerospace's planned two-seater Lynx vehicle.
Virgin Galactic, is hoping to go live in 2014. It already has $70 million in deposits from 536 people, Chief Executive George Whitesides said at a related congressional hearing.
A $277,000 report titled 'Suborbital Reusable Vehicles: A Ten-Year Forecast of Market Demand', quoted in the Telegraph stated: "Our analysis indicates that about 8,000 high-net-worth individuals from across the globe are sufficiently interested and have spending patterns likely to result in the purchase of a suborbital flight – one-third from the United States.
"We estimate that about 40 per cent of the interested, high-net-worth population, or 3,600 individuals, will fly within the 10-year forecast"
"Further potential could be realised through price reductions and unpredictable achievements such as major research discoveries, the identification of new commercial applications, the emergence of global brand value, and new government (especially military) uses for suborbital reusable vehicles," the study said.
Those included in the study had to have a net worth of at least $5m in the bank. If the initial runs are a public success, it seems that the sky really will not be the limit.
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