Hilton to design hotel rooms for astronauts aboard Starlab

The hotel giant will help "reimagine the human experience in space, making extended stays more comfortable".
Deena Theresa
An artist's illustration of the Starlab private space station floating above Earth.
An artist's illustration of the Starlab private space station floating above Earth.

Nanoracks/Lockheed Martin/Voyager Space

In Stanley Kubrick's landmark film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, a Hilton hotel is seen orbiting the Earth. More than 20 years later, sci-fi fantasy has become reality.

Hotel behemoth Hilton has signed on to design astronaut facilities for an Earth-orbiting commercial space station Starlab, Voyager Space, a global leader in space exploration, announced. Starlab is currently under development by Voyager Space Holdings and Lockheed Martin, who first announced the orbiting complex in 2021.

"Starlab will be more than just a destination, it will be an experience made infinitely more unique and artful with the Hilton team’s infusion of innovation, expertise, and global reach," Dylan Taylor, Chairman and CEO, of Voyager Space, said in a press release. "Voyager and Hilton are acutely focused on creating innovative solutions for the future of humanity and this partnership opens new doors to what is possible for comfort-focused space exploration and habitation."

Voyager, and its operating company Nanoracks, were awarded $160 million in NASA funding in 2021 for the Starlab space station, which is one of the four being built by U.S. companies with help from NASA contracts to succeed the International Space Station in 2030.

"Hilton will bring the company's renowned hospitality expertise and experience to support the design and development of crew suites aboard Starlab, helping to reimagine the human experience in space, making extended stays more comfortable," officials said in the joint statement.

Hospitality in space

Although both the space and hospitality sectors have always envisioned the idea of a hotel in orbit, this partnership makes it the first of its kind among the private stations in development.

Taylor told CNBC at the 2022 International Astronautical Congress, that he’s excited by the "unique perspective" that Hilton brings to the project because "they’re not space people".

"It’s almost like looking at it with a fresh set of eyes and saying: 'How do we reimagine this experience,'" Taylor said, adding that he sees it as "a bit of an edge".

This isn't Hilton's first endeavor in space. The hotel giant is famous for launching the first cookie to be baked in space under its brand DoubleTree, in early 2020. The Smithsonian may display at least one of the chocolate trip cookies that returned to Earth in January 2020, Hilton hinted.

"For decades, discoveries in space have been positively impacting life on Earth, and now Hilton will have an opportunity to use this unique environment to improve the guest experience wherever people travel. This landmark collaboration underscores our deep commitment to spreading the light and warmth of hospitality and providing a friendly, reliable stay – whether on the ground or in outer space," said Chris Nassetta, president and CEO, of Hilton.

Going forward, Voyager and Hilton will partner in the areas of architecture and design to develop Space Hospitality crew headquarters aboard Starlab, including communal areas, hospitality suites, and sleeping arrangements for the astronauts.

The teams will also seek to explore opportunities together for longer-term efforts including the "ground-to-space" astronaut experience, global co-marketing and branding, and other tourism, educational, and commercial efforts.

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