US startup Orion Span has announced plans to launch the first space hotel in late 2021, with the first customers welcomed aboard in 2022.

The modular space habitat, named the Aurora Station, will accommodate four guests and two crew members at a height of 200 miles above the Earth’s surface. For $9.5m, space tourists will be able to spend 12 days in this low earth orbit (LEO), witnessing around 16 sunrises and sunsets every 24 hours.

“Upon launch, Aurora Station goes into service immediately, bringing travellers into space quicker and at a lower price point than ever seen before, while still providing an unforgettable experience,” said Orion Span founder and CEO Frank Bunger.

According to Orion Span, guests will only need to train for three months in preparation, as opposed to the two years required to become a fully qualified astronaut. A significant part of that training can be carried out online, with further training carried out at the company’s facility in Houston, Texas, with the certification awarded on board the Aurora Station.

“Orion Span has additionally taken what was historically a 24-month training regimen to prepare travellers to visit a space station and streamlined it to three months, at a fraction of the cost,” said Bunger.

“Our goal is to make space accessible to all, by continuing to drive greater value at lower cost.”

The station is planned as a 35ft by 14ft module, or roughly the interior volume of a Gulfstream G550 private jet, and feature a private suite for couples.

While on board, guests will be able to carry out activities beyond tourism which Orion Span claims will ‘directly contribute to humanity’s destiny in the stars’, including in-space manufacturing and zero gravity research.

Guests will also be able to experience virtual reality on the Holodeck, grow their own food and have live video chats with friends on Earth via high-speed wireless internet.

Aurora will be available to space agencies for charter, with customers only paying for the time they use.

“Our architecture is such that we can easily add capacity, enabling us to grow with market demand like a city growing skyward on Earth,” said Bunger.

“We will later sell dedicated modules as the world’s first condominiums in space. Future Aurora owners can live in, visit, or sublease their space condo.”

Deposits are now being accepted, with the $80,000 fully refundable should the applicants change their minds or find themselves unable to fund the full $9.5m.

The 2021 launch year was announced at the Space 2.0 Summit in San Jose, California.