CSS Skywalker - First Step To SF Orbital Resorts

CSS Skywalker, an orbital hotel designed by Bigelow Aerospace, will consist of a 22x45 foot inflatable space habitat that can be easily configured for its guests. In the configuration shown below, the top level is set aside as a lounge; the middle level provides space for sleeping guests. The bottom level holds bathrooms and sleeping areas.


(From CSS Skywalker Orbital Resort Diagram)

Science fiction fans of course remember the more spacious lounge in the orbiting space station in 2001: A Space Odyssey; note the low curving ceiling (this space station was spun on its axis to provide artificial gravity for the guests).


(From 2001 Lounge)

CSS Skywalker guests will not be so fortunate; the inflatable space module will not offer artificial gravity services to guests. The idea for an inflatable space bubble probably belongs to writer Larry Niven.

Guests in Bigelow Aerospace's hotel will be kept safe with three layers of protection: a membrane to keep air in, a protective layer for the membrane and an eighteen-inch-thick shield consisting of alternating woven graphite composite and foam. The intent of this layer is to provide protection against orbiting debris in low earth orbit (see Electrodynamic Tethers: Clean Up Debris for more information - and a possible real-world solution). Ground-testing of Bigelow’s habitat skin has shown that it can stop impacts by 5/8-inch-diameter aluminum pellets fired at it at 6.4 kilometers a second, several times as fast as a rifle bullet. Guests thus pampered will be charged $1 million US per night for their stay at the most unique resort property in the solar system. Guests at Bigelow's terrestrial properties - Budget Suites - pay as little as $49 US per night. Location, location, location.


(From CSS Skywalker Shielding)

Speaking of making sure that as much money as possible stays up above the gravity well, another well-known science-fictional orbital resort is Freeside, a large space habitat that provides everything a tourist could want:

`Freeside,' Armitage said, touching the panel on the little Braun hologram projector. The image shivered into focus, nearly three meters from tip to tip. `Casinos here.' He reached into the skeletal representation and pointed. `Hotels, strata-title property, big shops along here.' His hand moved. `Blue areas are lakes.' He walked to one end of the model. `Big cigar. Narrows at the ends.'

`We can see that fine,' Molly said. `Mountain effect, as it narrows. Ground seems to get higher, more rocky, but it's an easy climb. Higher you climb, the lower the gravity. Sports up there. There's velodrome ring here.' He pointed.

`A what?' Case leaned forward.

`They race bicycles,' Molly said. `Low grav, high-traction tires, get up over a hundred kilos an hour.'
(From Freeside Orbital Resort)

Will CSS Skywalker be a success? Bigelow Aerospace is gambling at least $500 million on whether or not space tourism really takes off.


("My God, it's full of ... guests!" )

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