Commercial real estate market in low-earth orbit taking off

If you’re looking for an out of this world commercial investment opportunity, you might like to strap on a pair of astronaut boots and head to your nearest Low-Earth Orbit space station or hotel.

The Low-Earth Orbit commercial market is heating up – literally – with more than 50 companies in the US looking to join a program to develop private space stations.

Low-Earth Orbit is approximately 100km above sea level.

The news comes after Orbital Assembly Corporation announced earlier this year that they planned to open a luxury space hotel , for 280 guests and 112 crew members, by 2027.

On the space station front, Nanoracks, in conjunction with Voyager Space and Lockheed Martin plan to develop the first free-flying commercial space station to be known as Starlab.

Starlab is expected to have initial operational capability by 2027.

Nanoracks Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Manber said they had been working for a long time to get the project up and running.

“Since the beginning, Nanoracks has sought to own and operate a private space station to fully unlock market demand,” he said. 

“Our team has spent the last decade learning the business of space stations, understanding customer needs, charting market growth, and self-investing in private hardware on the ISS like the Bishop Airlock.

“Nanoracks and our team are excited to work with NASA and our friends across the world as we move forward with Starlab.”

The US Government wants to be one of multiple customers for orbital research space and NASA recently announced a Commercial Low-Earth Orbit Destination, or CLD, program to support development of private space stations.

So far, 53 companies and organisations have expressed interest in the CLD program, including SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic Holdings.

The CLD will stimulate a LEO economy and provide science and crew capabilities before the International Space Station retires

Lockheed Martin will construct and operate Starlab, while Voyager Space will oversee financing and capital investment. Starlab is expected to be 56 feet (17 meters) long, including its core inflatable habitat, which is about 26 feet in diameter.

The Starlab business model is designed to enable science, research and manufacturing for global customers, as well as bring added value to long-duration astronaut missions.

It will also serve tourism and other commercial and business activities.

Voyager Space Chief Executive Officer Dylan Taylor said Starlab represented a good investment.

“Voyager Space is highly confident in the Starlab business model and its ability to be commercially sustainable and well capitalised,” he said.

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Rowan Crosby

Rowan Crosby is a freelance journalist specialising in finance and real estate.