Title:  Orbital Retirement Community



Source & Date

Al Globus.  Senior Research Associate, San Jose State University Foundation  

April 2008.




As we age it becomes more and more difficult to live in a 1g gravitational field.  Many older people require canes, walkers, or wheelchairs just to move about the house.  Furthermore, as bones weaken, simple falls become debilitating or even fatal. Furthermore, many older individuals are extremely wealthy. A retirement community in orbit at either zero or very low-g might be extremely attractive to this population, as the canes, walkers, and wheelchairs could be dispensed with.





Even catering to the wealthiest individuals, launch and on-orbit accommodations are far too expensive today.  However,  the budding tourist market will, if successful, push launch rates from the handful per vehicle type today into the hundreds, or even thousands of launches per year, permitting economies of scale to drive down price.  Furthermore, Bigalow Aerospace is developing a (relatively) low-costs on-orbit inflatable habitat that could be a precursor of low-g retirement communities.




The TP has the following assignment: 

1) Define a plausible low-g orbital retirement community for 2050 (who, what, where).  Be sure to include adequate medical facilities for elderly residents and a means for the grand-children to visit.

2) Develop a business plan that defines launch and on-orbit facilities cost targets necessary for financial viability.

3) Develop marketing materials for the facility.



Expected level of involvement by department area


               Business            Life              Policy           Physical          Satellite          Systems           Space

            Management       Science           & Law           Science       Applications     Engineering & Society

Major         X                   X                                                                            X                   X

Minor                                               X                                                                            


Brief explanation of expected involvement by department area

 Space Business & Management:   Develop a business plan leading to profitability 

 Space Life Sciences:                    Determine space medicine requirements for an elderly population                       

 Space Policy & Law:                     Define a legal regime for retirement community protecting individual customers and the group in case of dementia.

 Space Physical Sciences:             NA          

 Satellite Applications:                     NA          

 Space Systems Engineering:         Design the habitat, docking systems, power and thermal, and regenerative life-support including good quality food.  Pay particular attention to human waste collection as this is difficult in zero-g (low-g may be easier).

 Space & Society:                           Determine the social impact of permanent orbital residents




Window of Opportunity

This proposed TP is viable for the foreseeable future.




This proposed TP is likely to enjoy broad support among those with a sense of adventure who will someday grow old.  Although at first one should expect that only the wealthiest individuals could afford to retire in orbit, over time the cost should come down to a more reasonable level..