Out of This World: Russians Plan To Put Space Hotel in Orbit

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A Russian company has announced it plans to launch a spacecraft into orbit in the next six years that will serve as a hotel for space tourists.

Orbital Technologies said Wednesday that the proposed Commercial Space Station (CSS) will offer an alternative to non-astronauts who until now have been limited to visiting the International Space station (ISS).

"The ISS was designed to carry out scientific and research work at the request of the government. We plan to create a space hotel," company CEO Sergei Kostenko told news agency RIA Novosti. "Our planned module inside will not remind you of the ISS. A hotel should be comfortable inside, and it will be possible to look at the Earth through large portholes."

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Orbital Technologies is teaming up with state-run Rocket and Space Corporation Energia as well as Russian space agency Roscosmos for the project.

Kostenko said he expects the first clients to be private citizens, professional crews and corporate researchers doing their own experiments. He added they'll be chosen by an American company, Space Adventures, that currently selects the paying passengers on Roscosmos missions.

The first module launched into orbit will be a snug 706 cubic feet with four cabins that can hold a total of seven passengers. Orbital Technologies says they plan for the CSS to also be used as a lab for microgravity research and to assist the International Space Station (ISS).

"For example, if a required maintenance procedure or a real emergency were to occur, without the return of the ISS crew to Earth, habitants could use the CSS as a safe haven," Alexey Krasnov of the Russian Federal Space Agency said in a press release on the Orbital website.

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Orbital would not say how much the project will cost, beyond saying that it will run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Kostenko said that American and Russian investors have already signed on.

The project is currently in the design and development stage of a vague timeline. They hope to have a module built sometime in 2012 to 2013, and have it launched by a Russian Soyuz rocket in late 2015 or early 2016.

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Only Russia takes space tourists into orbit. Seven men have visited the ISS as space tourists. Most recently, Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte paid more than $35 million for a mission last October.

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He'll be the last tourist for a while. Russia announced in March that it would be halting space tourism because it needs to ferry more astronauts to the ISS before NASA's shuttle program comes to an end next year.

Last week, Roscosmos said it won't resume space tourism until 2013 at the earliest. But the agency said it is stepping up construction of new spacecraft, which means there could be more room for tourists.

Orbital Technologies is joining a growing field of competitors vying to become the first to put a space hotel in orbit. Las Vegas-based Bigelow Aerospace has launched inflatable modules that could be used as commercial space stations and the Spanish Galactic Suite Space Resort has said it plans to start welcoming guests in 2012.

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