Flights to space 'could become mainstream in 20 years'

Investor says emergence of Space X’s Starship offers hope of flight boom

SpaceX's first super heavy-lift Starship SN8 rocket during a return-landing attempt after it launched from their facility on a test flight in Boca Chica, Texas U.S. December 9, 2020. REUTERS/Gene Blevins
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Commercial space flights could become mainstream within 20 years, an investor in the fast-advancing industry has said.

Tarek Waked, founding partner of Type One Ventures, a venture capital firm based in San Francisco, predicted the sector would follow a similar path to aviation, which saw flights become affordable within a decade of the first transatlantic air journey.

He said those interested in buying a ticket aboard a rocket to the Moon or Mars should expect to fork out at least a third of their savings.

Asked by The National how soon the global community could expect commercial space flights to be rolled out, Mr Waked said it was difficult to offer an exact timeline, but that flights to space could be opened up to a wider audience in 20 to 30 years’ time.

Speaking at the Space Talks conference in London, Mr Waked pointed to the emergence of Starship, the next generation of Space X’s orbital spacecraft, which can carry up to 100 passengers.

This, he said, was among the developments which indicate an expected acceleration in space journeys in the years to come.

Mr Waked said immigrants in the past were prepared to fork out at least a third of their savings to emigrate to the “New World”, which in turn brought economic benefits for themselves and their families.

“We can be expected then to spend that same amount on going to the Moon,” he said.

The billionaire space race has come in for a lot of criticism recently, with opponents arguing the huge amounts of money needed to send a rocket into the atmosphere could be better spent fixing problems on Earth.

Last week Prince William said saving the planet from climate change should come before space tourism.

His public rebuke came just a day after Star Trek actor William Shatner took off on a flight aboard Jeff Bezos’ rocket, Blue Origin.

But Mr Waked argued that expensive flights into space can play a crucial role in helping to find solutions to problems on Earth, including climate change.

Mr Waked was joined by other experts for a panel discussion at the summit hosted by Cosmonauts in London on Tuesday.

Fellow speaker Rob Desborough of Seraphim Space, a UK-based investment trust, dismissed critics of the space race, insisting key players were not just conducting “joyrides” into space.

Members argued that regulation was preventing further growth of the industry.

Mr Waked is an investor in Space Forge, a start-up looking to harness the power of space to lead the clean industrial revolution.

The company based in Cardiff, Wales, is developing reusable satellites aimed at manufacturing materials in space that can in turn be used to make low carbon technologies on Earth.

In September, the start-up was given a £1.71 million ($2.35m) cash injection from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Boost! programme, which is supported by the UK Space Agency.

The company’s satellite, named ForgeStar Orbital Vehicle (FSOV-1), could propel the UK to the forefront of the global small satellite launch market.

Updated: October 20, 2021, 6:00 AM