How space travel will help broaden your vacation-home options here on Earth

Your chariot awaits.
Your chariot awaits.
Image: Reuters/Pierre Ducharme
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Traveling from London to your second home in Zurich is no longer such a hassle thanks to the advent of suborbital space travel options, say consultants Knight Frank in a new report on property options for the wealthy.

According to the report, having suborbital escape options means not only looking at the possibilities of getting from London to Sydney in around 2 1/2 hours, but possibly reaching less expensive markets for luxury property such as Sao Paolo or Cape Town in a similar amount of time. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, which says it will fly this year, or Jeff Bezos-backed Blue Origin are poised to not only satisfy thrill seekers, but perhaps take a bite out of private jets and opulent first-class cabins over the long term.

These services employ reusable aircraft-like vehicles to enter low Earth orbit briefly and return to a ground station via traditional landing— eliminating the time suck of long-haul flights. That is, if you don’t mind donning a pressure suit over your power suit and have $250,000 to drop on a one-way ride.

“By traveling outside the Earth’s atmosphere, gravitational forces will allow spacecraft to travel at over 4,000 miles per hour, so breakfast in Mayfair could easily be followed by lunch overlooking Sydney Opera House,” wrote the Knight Frank’s head of research Liam Bailey on the company’s blog. Bailey and his team worked out a few possible scenarios, including San Francisco to Singapore in just under two hours, which now takes around 17 hours, or Vancouver to Dubai in an hour and a half, instead of nearly 15 hours of flying time.

In the new world of the suborbital set, the dollar goes further buying property in emerging markets such as Istanbul, where $1 million bought 100 square meters of luxury residential property on average in 2013, versus 16 square meters in Monaco. Sao Paolo and Dubai afford even more space for the spacefarer, with the same million buying 133 and 169 square meters respectively.Since major financial centers owe their position in part to easy access by both people and capital, global cash flows might also be rearranged. Travel patterns that go back over a century could be reshaped by suborbital options, and some current havens for wealth might feel some of the realignment as money moves elsewhere—between Shanghai and Cape Town, for example.

Flight Times to key destinations by conventional flight and sub-orbital travel

Source: Knight Frank

Though frequent suborbital flights are still possibly a decade away, Bailey told me that the ultra high net worth individuals his firm tracks are paying attention to near-space flights and new space technology among. “We noted an uptick in very wealthy investors looking to invest in space research, especially suborbital travel, asteroid mining (Planetary Resources), launch technology (Space X) a little while ago, [and] this trend appears to be accelerating,” Bailey wrote in an email.

Most attention seems to be coming from America’s ultra-wealthy, particularly from the tech sector, whose peers include known space investors like Bezos and Elon Musk. “The investors are relatively mixed, although there seem to be two common characteristics—US wealth dominates, and those who made their wealth in the tech sector are notable in this group,” Bailey said.

But before you shout “Elysium” and get worried about the rich monopolizing offworld travel, Bailey points to historical patterns in luxury travel as a sign that these options will ultimately trickle down. “Whether we like it or not, most technologies are for the wealthy to start with, and then innovation helps to democratize them,” said Bailey. “ I’m not sure how many ‘merely affluent’ people owned cars in 1904, were traveling abroad by cruise liner in 1934, were flying overseas for holidays in 1954. You could equally argue that until very recently governments had a monopoly on everything non-terrestrial, but now the private sector has arrived.”