Russia to launch luxury hotel room module to ISS?


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Capitalism in space: Roscosmos is considering a plan to launch a hotel module to ISS where it could house tourists for profit.

According to a detailed proposal seen by Popular Mechanics, the 20-ton, 15.5-meter-long module would provide 92 cubic meters of pressurized space. It would accommodate four sleeping quarters sized around two cubic meters each and two “hygiene and medical” stations of the same volume. Each private room would also have a porthole with a diameter of 228 millimeters (9 inches), while the lounge area of the module would have a giant 426-millimeter (16-inch) window.

The external structure of the tourist module looks like the Science and Power Module, NEM-1, which Russia is currently building for the International Space Station. The second NEM module had originally been on the books in the station’s assembly scenario, but the Russian government funded only one module. It will serve primarily as a science laboratory and a power-supply station for the ISS.

Now, Russia’s prime space station contractor, RKK Energia, came up with a scheme to pay for the second NEM module through a mix of private and state investments. To make profit, the NEM-2 would be customized for paid visitors.

Makes sense to me. Russia doesn’t really have the money right now to fund a big deep space exploration program. Better they aim for profits in space, as that will keep them in the black and provide them the capital they presently lack.

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16 comments

  • wayne

    This doesn’t make sense to me.
    And it has little to do with actual capitalism and free-markets.

    Q: How much American cash, went into the ISS? I didn’t pay all these taxes, under force, so the soviet commies could attempt to make a “profit.”

    These commies are NOT our friend’s and we will eventually have to fight an existential war of annihilation against them, once and forever.

  • Commodude

    Wayne , ISS was a multinational effort paid for out of the coffers of many nations, including Russia. While I would never argue that the former Soviet Union is our best friend, the continuing jingoistic reaction to Russia as an arch enemy serves no one.

  • Commodude: While I agree with you that it is a mistake to paint our impressions of other nations, such as Russia, too broadly (as Wayne does), I must point out that while many nations have participated in building ISS, the bulk of its cost has been born by the U.S. And though the Europeans and the Japanese paid their agreed to share, building and paying for their modules and cargo missions, the Russians have really not done so. Most of their modules have not yet been finished or launched, and they have been funding most of their effort on ISS by taking money from us to fly our astronauts there. When we no longer do so, they are going to be hard-pressed to find the capital to maintain their participation. This idea of putting up an unfinished module and paying for it with tourist profits seems very wise to me.

  • ken anthony

    It’s an oligarch moving slowly toward capitalism. We have two choices, nuclear annihilation of both nations or we learn to be friends. Russia’s problem is they want to think of themselves as a superpower when they are not. They want to dominate their ‘near abroad’ which always includes more near abroads as they expand.

    We have a good opportunity of making them friends if it weren’t for the anti-American coalition in our own country. Putin is an intelligent guy who even has some good national motivations even though he’s evil in action. But Russia and it’s people could become loyal allies like Japanese became if we simply handled them properly. Adjustments to their national character might take longer, but that should not stop us.

    In some ways, America has already become more communist than the commies.

  • Rod

    I see the need to develop a robotic sleeping bag folder and placer of chocolate mints (the mints will have velcro wrappers)

  • wayne

    ken–
    I no longer subscribe to the notion that nuclear weapons, inherently lead to unwinnable situations. Have to disagree on Putin, he’s KGB. And have to disagree on making-them-our-loyal-allies, ala Germany/Japan. That was unconditional-surrender, along with physical occupation for decades.

    As for the Russians and the ISS; it just sounds like a scam.

    Ceterum autem censeo Carthaginem esse delendam”
    (“Furthermore, I consider that Carthage, must be destroyed.”)

  • Localfluff

    It’s just to annoy old Donald. Trumping the Trump Tower. Putin knows his weak spot.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UuBqDSAPm7Q

  • Edward

    This development underscores the advantages of capitalism in space, right down the ownership of private property in order to profit from one’s own efforts. In the long run, it does not matter whether Russia, Bigelow, Ixion, or Axiom makes the first space hotel, it just matters that space finds more and more useful and profitable purposes.

    The purpose of the ISS is to help develop such uses for space. Creating a space hotel may contribute to our knowledge of how to take care of colonists as they travel to far away places, such as Mars.

    If Russia is able to find a space-related activity that helps to fund its space program, so much the better. Not all space projects are funded from space activity. Government space programs, such as NASA, are funded from taxpayers. Blue Origin is funded from online retail sales, and Bigelow is funded from an Earthly real estate business. Russia may be on the verge of showing that space can pay for itself. If New Shepard becomes wildly profitable, then it may also show that space can pay for itself.

    And that, after all, is the goal of capitalism in space.

  • pzatchok

    By the time Russia gets this in place and running Space X will be running people up and down for half the price. Russia will be hard pressed to even afford to launch customers.

    And even if they get a few customers exactly who is going to go?
    It will cost maybe 20 million per person for a week.
    A week in a smelly tube shared with 4 or 5 other smelly people.
    All the time at risk of bathroom waste flying around because of an accident.
    Plus what are they going to do for that week? Hang out with all the actuall research astronauts?
    Are they going to be put to work cleaning up after themselves or even others?

    They will want entertainment and servants. Who is doing that job?
    They will want private quiet rooms for private noisy things.
    The first one will ask for a space walk. Will ether give them that or they will not tell their friends its a good experience.

    If they don’t get all that they will just take that 2 million dollar pogo ride from blue Origin and experience space for an hour or so in a small ship with their best friends. Then go out for celebratory drinks after landing. And the windows will be FAR bigger than on the Russian
    ‘hotel’.

  • ken anthony

    Wayne,

    I no longer subscribe to the notion that nuclear weapons, inherently lead to unwinnable situations.

    Nuclear is a boogieman. However, enough warheads landing can change the balance of power. Our safety actually comes from there being other powers, keeping the main powers from reducing themselves to the point where secondary powers lose deterrence.

    Have to disagree on Putin, he’s KGB.

    How does that make him not intelligent or not motivated by his nations interests? All I’m suggesting is his interests can me adjusted to align closer to ours. I’m not at all suggesting he change who he is or that we be naive.

    have to disagree on making-them-our-loyal-allies

    They were allies (while communist) before. We have shared interested today that can be built upon. We do have to be unshakable in respecting sovereignty of other countries but Russia can be taught this if we’re resolved. The anti-tank weapons going to Ukraine would be a good example of this.

  • ken anthony

    pzatchok, All the points you make are valid, but at least they are more tourist friendly than NASA. NASA would not have allowed the first tourist, which is another example of Russia embracing capitalism faster than American govt.

    American govt. has, more and more, been assuming they define the limits of liberty and over time have been a constrictor of freedom. Trump’s deregulation is just a tiny confrontation of that continuing trend which he has also been fighting in part by not fully staffing open positions. He’s doing what he can in a bureaucracy that has put legal safeguards in place to protect themselves from the people.

  • pzatchok

    Nasa astronauts are an over educated, over trained, over paid, over privaledged small group of people.

    But as soon as NASA agrees that common skilled people with some emergency training can go to space a huge portion of their reputation if not the last portion of their reputation will go away.

    Right now graduate students can do all the experiments and cleaning on the station.
    All the physical maintenance can be done by a well trained maintenance worker and all the construction can be done by actual construction workers.
    Its not like they can not have direct time supervision from the ground for any task they don’t everyday. Just like the real astronauts.

    As for the Russians. they make PR anouncements for internal propaganda all the time. They seem to think the internet amd the outside world doesn’t reach them.
    As soon as SpaceX starts launching people to the station they will find its even more economical to use SpaceX themselves.
    Heck it looks like the Falcon 9 can be modified to carry the Soyuz system if need be.

  • Edward

    pzatchok wrote: “Nasa astronauts are an over educated, over trained, over paid, over privaledged small group of people.

    Maybe, but I would rather have an over educated, over trained, over paid (really?), over privileged astronaut than a grad student on the job when something goes wrong.

    When early ISS solar arrays were being deployed, there was a problem with them that was related to the longer than expected storage time. I got to stand around the perimeter of the room in which the array’s manufacturer was watching the second deployment, and the engineers saw a problem on the second deployment and decided to recommend a different course of action. Before the engineers could speak to NASA, though, we heard the astronaut make the same suggestion; a minute later NASA asked over the speakerphone if that was a good action, and the engineering team agreed. A minute later the astronaut was given the go ahead.

    That one astronaut was as smart as a team of engineers.

    I would rather have an over educated, over trained, over paid, over privileged astronaut on the job when something goes wrong than a grad student. He may already know the fix without needing to have it explained to him, saving time, saving money, and maybe even preventing damage that an underpaid, inexperienced, poorly trained grad student might cause.

    Remember the Mindy Park character in “The Martian”? She was disappointed that she had a masters degree but was only babysitting some satellites. It turned out that having a masters degree meant that she was the right person in the right place at the right time. You may think that a trained monkey can do a job, but they won’t do the same quality job as the knowledgeable, thinking human.

    Merry Christmas, all.

  • wayne

    pivoting to…. trained monkeys, in Space.

    Trailblazer in Space –
    “Space Monkey Ham” (1961)
    https://youtu.be/MnvDz-wD7WQ
    9:14

  • pzatchok

    Your solar array example shows me two things.
    A man, any man, on site was as fast as a team of engineers a thousand miles away. He was on site and should have been able to see the stuck support. Shaking it worked.
    If that one astronaut was as smart as a whole team of engineres why did we need the team in the first place?
    I guess you think all auto machanics should be mechanical engineers and computer programers. Trained for 10 years and paid 200 thousand a year for that whole time.
    Then turn around and spend 80% of their time in the shop cleaning and assembling the shop. All just in case the door needs fixed or the light bulbs need replaced. The other 20% running someone elses experiments on frogs and doing PR work to STEM schools.

    Thats not working in Space thats just being there. NASA needs to get over its idea of space being a ‘special” place only a chosen few can go and get on to making it a place for everyone to live.

    NASA shouldn’t be waiting for other nations to build modules, the USA should have been assembly line building them 20 years ago. Shipping them empty and filling them as needed. Now we sit around waiting for someone else to do exactly the same thing.

    its time

  • Edward

    pzatchok asked: “If that one astronaut was as smart as a whole team of engineres why did we need the team in the first place?

    Smart as he is, he cannot build an entire space station himself. Thousands of other hands are needed in order to build a space station. Some build the pressure vessel(s), others build the solar arrays, and others still build the electronics gizmos and other thingamabobs that make the whole thing work.

    But what happens when the astronaut is far from Earth, such as on his way to Mars, and he needs to be able to make an urgent fix on his own? He had better be smart enough and trained enough to do it, no matter what gadget is acting up.

    And that is the point.

    pzatchok,
    You wrote: “I guess you think all auto machanics should be mechanical engineers and computer programers.

    Which just goes to show that you did not pay attention to my comment. Since when was an auto mechanic the equivalent of an astronaut? The auto mechanic does not have to be a jack of all trades in order to fix everything in his world; for instance, he can hire the electrician from next door to fix some of the problems in his shop.

    You wrote: “NASA needs to get over its idea of space being a ‘special” place only a chosen few can go and get on to making it a place for everyone to live.

    Is this not what you were suggesting SpaceX would do for half the price than the Russians want to do it for?

    You wrote: “NASA shouldn’t be waiting for other nations to build modules, the USA should have been assembly line building them 20 years ago.

    30 years ago. But when you let government be in charge, you only get what government wants. It is only when you are in charge that you get what you want. This is the lesson that American space enthusiasts learned in the 1990s. They grew weary of waiting for Congress to assign NASA to do the right thing, and they started working on private space projects — they put themselves in charge of doing what it had taken entire nations to do, and they intended to do more of it, too.

    The entire idea behind Peter Diamandis’ X-Prize was to get a private space industry started, even if it was suborbital tourism. The idea behind Armadillo Aerospace, Delta Clipper, Kistler Aerospace, Rotary Rocket, and VentureStar was to get a commercial space launch industry started. SpaceX was founded in 2002 with the same goal.

    However, getting to space is difficult (it is the tyranny of the rocket equation), and starting a company is difficult (until a decade ago, it was almost impossible to find capital that was willing to take a risk in any commercial space industry*). When we combine both, we find some successes (e.g. NanoRacks, Orbital, and SpaceX), at least 7 failures (the list of five from the previous paragraph, plus XCOR and Firefly), and dozens of companies still trying (e.g. Axiom, Bigelow, Blue Origin, Google’s Lunar X-Prize contestants and a couple of former contestants, Ixion, Made In Space, Reaction Engines (Skylon), Rocket Lab, Sierra Nevada, Stratolaunch, Vector, World View, etc.).

    Then again, if space were easy then we would already have thousands of people working and living in space, and none would have to be a jack of all trades in order to assure that his space station was kept in running order. He could just hire the mechanic or electrician from the space station next door to pop around to fix the doohickey, kludge, or whizbang.

    * The only examples I know of, before 2009, was Orbital Sciences finding an investor to start up their business in 1982, and Rotary Rocket finding an angel investor in the late 1990s — although not enough of an investment to keep them going for long.

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