China Shares Plans for Space Tourism Trips From 2025

China could start commercial space tourism rocket launches by 2025, one of the country's top space experts has said.

Speaking to state news outlet the Global Times, Yang Yiqiang, director of the Aerospace Flight Science and Technology Center of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said China has entered a new era of spaceflight and would start "suborbital travel" for tourists in 2025 with a cost of 2 million to 3 million yuan ($285,000 to $428,000) per person.

Yiqiang also compared China's space industry to that of the U.S., and said he expects the country will "catch up with the development level of the United States within 10 years."

The commercial space industry in the U.S. has undergone a radical transformation over the past decade with the rise of companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic all taking steps into space tourism.

China rocket
A Chinese Long March-2F rocket sits on a launch pad in Jiuquan, China, in June, 2013. China's commercial space industry is expected to blossom over the next five years or so, according to one of the country's top space experts. STR/AFP/Getty

As of August 4, Blue Origin's re-usable New Shepard rocket had flown a total of 32 passengers into space, with customers including the company's owner Jeff Bezos plus actor William Shatner and former football player Michael Strahan.

Likewise SpaceX launched the Inspiration4 mission in September 2021 that saw four civilians spend over two days in orbit around the Earth as part of a charitable effort.

Space tourism is still a nascent industry with limited access outside except for the wealthy—a seat on Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity space plane costs around $450,000. Still, it may become more accessible in the future.

Yiqiang said there may be many options for space tourists in China over the next few years, including suborbital rocket launches, a space plane similar to Virgin Galactic and even the opportunity for tourists to visit China's space station—though Yiqiang said this would have "strict requirements on the physical and psychological quality of the tourists."

"With the improvement of the business model, China is expected to start suborbital travel in 2025, with a fare of about 2 million to 3 million yuan," he said.

The other side to the commercial space industry is privately-owned companies offering rocket launches to paying customers. Satellite operators, NASA and the U.S. military have all been customers of SpaceX, with the company's reusable self-landing Falcon 9 rocket offering a relatively cheap route into orbit.

Yiqiang said he expects China to reach "the 'spring' of commercial aerospace" by 2027, which would be characterized by a large-scale satellite constellation, frequent rocket launches, and recovery and re-use of cheap liquid-fueled rockets. Currently, China's rocket launches tend to involve single-use launch vehicles.

"Although China's commercial aerospace started late, its development trend is surging and in full swing, driven by policy support, capital blessing and market demand," Yiqiang said.