Space Products and Services
Travel, Lifestyle, and Entertainment
In space, accommodations are among the long-term goals (20 to 30 years) of several privately funded space companies. SpaceX’s founder Elon Musk has often stated his personal goal, and one of the goals of his company, is to help humanity become a “spacefaring civilization.”
Satellites will continue to provide niche services and connectivity for the hospitality industry. In areas without terrestrial cable, television is not economical, and hotels will continue to rely on direct-to-home services to provide guests with premium content.
Satellite-enabled capabilities are sometimes used to enhance guest services. In 2005, Rosewood Hotels & Resorts started offering its guests an alternative to paper maps when looking for directions.
Hotels in remote tourist locations use very small aperture terminals (VSATs) to keep track of bookings and current capacity. In 1999, Best Western had 560 sites connected by a VSAT network, while, more recently, Six Continents Hotels, Inc., contracted Gilat to provide a satellite network to more than 2,500 locations in the United States and Canada.
GPS receivers are being integrated into mapping and camera equipment. “Geotagging,” a complementary application for digital photography, records coordinates from a GPS receiver in the metadata of photographs.
Slacker, a new model of satellite and Internet radio that combines the portability of satellite radio with the customization features of personal audio devices, was launched in 2007 by a San Diego-based start-up company of the same name.
Inmarsat, a provider of mobile satellite services, released the IsatPhone in summer 2007, a handheld voice and data phone that overcomes some of the disadvantages of traditional satellite phones, such as the lack of coverage indoors and in urban canyons, by its ability to communicate via standard cell phone networks.
DIRECTV, one of two major direct-to-home (DTH) providers serving North America, unveiled a portable satellite TV in January 2007. The portable TV unit houses a 17-inch liquid crystal display (LCD) screen in a carrying case that resembles a briefcase. An antenna, rather than a dish, receives signals from DIRECTV’s satellites.
Perhaps the highest visibility for a space technology spinoff in 2008 was the migration of technology used for space shuttle drag research into the design of the low-friction swimwear worn by a number of Olympic competitors, including multiple gold medalwinner Michael Phelps.
In 2008, RocketShip Tours began booking passage to the edge of space onboard an XCOR Lynx spacecraft. The Lynx vehicle will carry a pilot and one passenger in a front seat position, offering a unique perspective during flight.