Los Angeles - May 06, 2002
The dream is alive, has a price tag of $20 million and a small queue is forming. Later this month, the Russians are required to announce who the next 'visiting crewmember' will be in order to meet the terms of the formal crew criteria agreed by the Multilateral Coordination Board for the international space station in January.
Most visibly in the queue is 23yr old Lance Bass, a music artist, who has already successfully undertaken preliminary medical tests in Russia.
39yr old polish banking magnate Leszek Czarnecki is close behind, and being represented by Space Adventures (who sealed the deals for Tito and Shuttleworth).
Finally, former NASA associate administrator Lori Garver, a 40-year-old mother of two.
Competing Business Models Emerge
To make things more interesting, both Bass and Garver are represented by MirCorp, who wish to strike deals for flights to the international space station which are based on corporate sponsorship rather than just the private funds of high-worth individuals.
So Space Adventures find themselves with a direct competitor vying for highly limited flights using a different business model.
Space Adventures' simplistic pay-to-fly model has proven lengthy and difficult to setup, but easy to maintain once the barriers (to flight and ISS visits) are removed - you just show the customer the price tag.
Pitted against them are two closely linked competitive models, aimed at either raising the money for the current flight ticket price, or more imaginatively, to seek to make a profit.
Running with these models are the re-grouped MirCorp (who in addition claim to have plans for building their own destination station), Brainpool TV of germany, and individuals (agents) such as TV producer David Krieff of NBC.
MirCorp are seeking funding for their own mini space station, which could solve the problem of flight and destination capacity limits with the ISS. Their existing relationships with the Russians could enable them to enact their business plan fairly rapidly if the funding is achieved, and every time a tourist pays his $20m to fly that funding probabilty becomes more foreseeable.
Brainpool has long published a detailed description of their TV gameshow called 'Space Commander', and have until now had to sit and let the frontier open before taking it much further. That said, they also reported last year that they had struck a complex deal with European and russian space partners to effectively pre-book a number of seats to support several years of TV gameshow programming and several flights.
Lance Bass's producer come-agent David Krieff is reportedly working with the William Morris Agency and The Gurin Company on using Bass's flight as a launch event for a Scandinavian reality-TV show. This is the most complex of all the deals, but could simultanteously get Bass his flight, prove the TV market, and finally get the advertising business back on its feet with a new media for the 21st century.
Interestingly, the rise of the commercial agent into the space business reminds us that most of these models have a large element of the media industry attached to them.
This is why we should expect to see agents increasingly being used for both high-worth individuals, and also for those trying to stitch sponsorship deals together.
Lurking in the background however is the grey area concerning Spanish astronaut Pedro Duque, who may have $13 million of backing from the Spanish government. Should that deal go ahead, then it could be met with legal action for commercial damages from the agents and ad men, plus some very awkward questions concerning how all international flight crew are selected and funded. For the governments to try to meddle with the infant commercial models at this time could be disasterous for the health of their agencies, and invite a stinging rebuke from the tax paying public.
Adverts gone for now, set to return in force
Whilst Dennis Tito effectivly employed stealth advertising tactics (sneaking advertising materials onboard and filming adverts in the Russian space station segment of the ISS), he did so at the price of shocking NASA into producing the rules which later bound Mark Shuttleworth's flight.
Whilst the visiting crew member rules released in January are pretty open, they do highlight that the space shuttle cannot carry tourists, and neither can government astronauts get involved in commercial activities. So for now the tourists have to continue to use russian launch services, and stay in the russian model for any commercial activities.
Shuttleworth seemed to have no interest in corporate sponsorship or advertising during his stay on the ISS, which is just as well since it is banned in the US segment. Whilst adverts may be gone for now, the joint SPACEHAB Inc.T and RSC Energia Enterprise module usage provisions which allow for just about as much commercial activity as you can cram into a working day.
Depending on who flies next, advertising will almost certainly return in some form with Bass or Garver and be a highly co-ordinated exercise. Tito had to sneak advertising into orbit simply because their were so many unknowns with his flight. With a flight slot confirmed at least six months in advance, the advertising machine will have more than enough time to go into overdrive. Never until this point will they have had an unrestrained agency employee available on orbit, and the guarantee of flight that allows media slots to be booked in advance. It is likely that space advertising will surpass even automotove brands as THE accounts to work on in the next year or two.
Pricing set to rise
It was rumoured at first that Shuttleworth's flight would be a little cheaper than Dennis Tito's. However, long-term analysts of the space tourism market have often pointed to the likelyhood of prices rising for space access before they fall.
The starting price is set by whatever historical, technical, commercial and political factors come to bare. These can only be hinted at for the Tito flight, but the $20m price tag has stuck even though everyone knows that the russians are making a considerable margin.
As the demand for space access grows, the very limited flights could lead to a bidding war. In a true commercial market, with two equally qualified space tourists, the carrier can accept the highest price. Hence once the space tourism market opens up, the price per seat rises until enough seats to meet demand are put in place.
MirCorp may help in the future by providing a dedicated tourist destination facility - which could support launches carrying perhaps two tourists per flight, and fly very much more often.
Aside from the simple pay-as-you go model used by Space Adventures, the emerging game show and lottery routes still promise the chance for everyday folks to have the chance to go into space in the next few years. But it is to be remembered that the only reasons why access is so restricted are that the flight opportunities are so few, so expensive, and that no attempt to seriously reduce the cost of man-rated launchers has been made in the history of space exploration.
With the travel sector now openly accepting the probability of suborbital flights in the next five years, three commercial sectors will diverge from each other before the converge again.
What NASA calls 'visiting crew', opportunities are restricted to a handfull per year. Durations may increase from 10 days up to a month, but the price is likely to stay level or potentially increase.
Several companies now developing short-duration (several minutes only) space flights using new and dedicated vehicles. Prices currently hover around $100k per flight, but with the potential to fall dramatically once technology is proven and vehicle design costs recouped.
Lurking in the background and living off the suborbital technology development is the promise of suborbital travel. Most likely to be confined to the business traveller and special freight (including military payloads), this capability allows access to almost any point on Earth within the hour.
The above markets all exist in theory, and instead of working together, they look set to diverge. They all have very distinct customer bases, and costs of technology development. Of them all, the lowest development cost has actually been for the full on-orbit manned spaceflight product, since it rides off the back of government-funded research and development.
Whilst this sounds fortuetous, the downside is that in the long term, $20m tickets to orbit and not going to be commercially viable. The market is simply to large to support that price indefinately, and the existing queue of space tourists should be seen as a highly visible proof of concept for those seeking funding from sceptical investors.
The suborbital market has very limited appeal in the long term, but will serve to create the kinds of technologies required to support the aspirations of almost completely untrained people to experience the space environment.
Suborbital travel on the other hand really only awaits the development of a technology to make this concept commercially viable. The suborbital market may do just that, and together these technologies drive commercial revenue streams and customer aspirations that support the development of new low earth orbit-capable vehicles that smash the pricing structures by orders of magnitude.
So in the short term, prices for access to LEO are set to rise, but with the promise of seeing them replaced by something more aspiration to the mass market. By then of course, the ad men and the agents will have done their work and earned their keep.
"Its nothing to do with access to space darling, it's all about which part of space!" In other words, by that time the space hotel market will have evolved it's own pricing structures designed especially to keep up standards.
Richard Perry is a member of the National Space Society, The Moon Society, a director of the commercial spaceflight company Transorbital Inc. Copyright 2002 Richard Perry
Subscribe To SpaceDaily Express
US Airways Offers Out Of This World Mileage Program
Arlington - March 11, 2002
US Airways and Space Adventures, Ltd., have formed an exclusive new exclusive business agreement where US Airways' Dividend Miles members will have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to earn and redeem frequent flyer miles for travel to the ultimate tourist destination -- outer space. US Airways is the world's first airline to offer mileage accrual and redemption for space travel.
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2016 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.|