I was looking for some background for the Gateway Foundation but didn’t find any conventional corporate info. The actual ownership and leadership include a few notables who’d have the right to some credibility.
The idea of a luxury space station isn’t new in theory, but as a project, it’s a whole new ball game or several. You can see the technical specifications on the Gateway page.
One of the features of the new space station is artificial gravity, you know, that thing Mars missions don’t have and which has been such a worry. This technology has been around for a long time, in various designs, and absolutely nothing has been done about it previously.
Apparently, it’s OK for a floating hotel to have artificial gravity, but not a Mars mission? Some of the original ideas for artificial gravity go back decades and were very gutsy ideas, too. Now, you can have Moon-level gravity to go with your flight into space on this space station, at least. So maybe this tech will eventually be available for major space exploration, or not. Given the usual priorities for basic tech in space, don’t hold your breath.
The size of this station is also rather interesting. This is a major construction project, by any standards. The diameter is 190 metres, with 24 pod-modules. That’s no small amount of materials to haul up into orbit, given that each module is about the size of a hotel room. The station will also require all facilities, accessways, communications, etc.
Some questions aren’t addressed directly in the promotional information:
• Transport is to be provided by a type of shuttle, unspecified.
• The station aims for 100 visitors a week, so that’s quite a lot of flights.
• The station will also require food, water, support services, etc. No details are available about these requirements.
• There’s a theory about a bigger station, which could take 1400 visitors. That’s a lot more in terms of logistics.
Given that a huge demand can be expected for the space station, the commercial potential of the Von Braun Space Station is obvious. To build it would be a major accomplishment, particularly using the types and sizes of transport and payloads currently in service. To get a commercial operation running and turn a profit would be arguably as big an achievement.
Space hotels and “risk management” haven’t had much of a chance to get acquainted, but this looks like a pretty good place to start. What happens if you have an altercation with an asteroid? What if a meteor or a piece of space junk decides to say hello in your pod?
Not wanting to be totally negative, I can see some practical issues here. Either you get the greatest risk waiver form ever written, or you get an insurer with deep pockets. Either way, you’re looking at serious money for construction, operations, and risk cover.
To be fair, anyone who wants to go into space won’t need telling that there are risks. What’s to be done about those risks, however, isn’t yet clear. If you get thousands of people going to Disneyland, let alone space, you can expect risks. It’d be nice if the Gateway Foundation explained its positions on those subjects.
This sort of project is going to happen sooner or later. The ideas need to be explored, the tech built, and the operating principles sorted out. The Von Braun Space Station, like its namesake, may have a few ideas that don’t get off the ground, but it’s worth development.
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