Boeing enters the space tourism market

Aerospace giant Boeing announced on Wednesday that it is entering the space tourism market by selling extra seats on future flights to the International Space Station. The company has developed a “space taxi” that will shuttle astronauts to the ISS once NASA officially retires the Space Shuttle sometime next year, and is partnering with Space Adventures, a company that has a history in organizing space flights for wealthy private citizens.

Boeing is currently bidding for the NASA contract to ferry astronauts into orbit, and has designed a new spacecraft known as the CST-100 or Crew Space Transportation-100. That small ship is expected to have seven seats, with several remaining empty on most flights. Those seats would be sold off to help fund the program, with tickets being sold at a price tag that is expected to appeal to very wealthy, and adventurous, travelers. No specific price points have been announced yet, but officials say that the flights will be competitive with trips aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft, which Space Adventures also brokers deals for. The last such flight cost Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte a cool $35 million and included a 10-day stay aboard the ISS.

For now, Boeing’s entry into the space tourism field is just a plan that may not come to fruition until 2015. But investors are taking notice because this is the first time that such a large company, with a background in aerospace, has actually placed any kind of focus on opening the market for civilian travelers to go into orbit. Their entry into the field lends legitimacy to space tourism, which many had seen as a pipe dream until now.

[Photo credit: Boeing]