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Out of This World
In the decades ahead, how much money will be made in space? Here's our comprehensive guide to a universe of new opportunities.

(Business 2.0) – SPACE HOTELS

WHAT: The utmost in getting away from it all, orbital hotel suites would offer rooms with a view at prices starting at about $25,000 a night. WHO'S WORKING ON IT: Bigelow Aerospace, Space Island Group MARKET SIZE: $5 billion a year by 2015


WHAT: The U.S. government is mounting an effort to land humans on Mars by 2030. WHO'S WORKING ON IT: Boeing, Lockheed Martin, NASA MARKET SIZE: $400 billion in NASA contracts by 2030


WHAT: Zero-gravity manufacturing facilities would open up new possibilities for the chip fabrication and biotech industries. WHO'S WORKING ON IT: Kayser-Threde, Space Island Group MARKET SIZE: $10 billion a year by 2015


WHAT: Vast solar panels positioned in orbit could beam energy down to microwave receivers on Earth, theoretically providing enough juice to meet all the planet's electricity needs. WHO'S WORKING ON IT: European Space Agency, Japanese Space Agency, Space Island Group MARKET SIZE: $100 billion a year by 2020


WHAT: Running along a cable that extends 62,000 miles above Earth, a giant elevator car could replace many rocket-powered flights, slashing the costs associated with ferrying passengers and cargo into orbit. WHO'S WORKING ON IT: LiftPort, Sedco MARKET SIZE: $2 billion a year by 2021


WHAT: Cobalt, gold, iron, magnesium, nickel, platinum, silver: All these metals, increasingly rare on Earth, can be found in raw form--and multitrillion-dollar quantities--in the 3,000-plus near-Earth asteroids, or NEAs, tracked by NASA. But according to Jim Benson, veteran space entrepreneur and founder of SpaceDev, there's an easier and faster profit to be made by tapping into another abundant space-rock resource: ice. "White gold," as Benson calls it, could be the oil of the space industry. Not only is every orbital enterprise going to need water, but hydrogen and oxygen are rocket fuels. NASA administrator Mike Griffin envisions a series of floating fuel depots, supplied by miners working on NEAs (750 of which are easier to reach than the Moon). Ice prices could be as much as $10,000 a pound, since that's the per-pound cost of getting anything to orbit. In theory, only one expedition would be required for a space-mining company to break even. WHO'S WORKING ON IT: SpaceDev MARKET SIZE: $10 billion a year by 2030


WHAT: NASA plans a return to the Moon by 2020, as a first step on the way to Mars. Our lunar neighbor may also have about a million tons of helium-3--a potential energy source that could be worth $7 billion a ton. WHO'S WORKING ON IT: NASA, Russia's Energia Space, Trans Lunar Research MARKET SIZE: $104 billion in NASA contracts by 2018; $250 billion in helium mining by 2050


WHAT: A new generation of tiny satellites are poised to revolutionize space-based communications. Take the CubeSat, a 4-inch-wide device that weighs about 2 pounds; it can be built for less than $25,000 and launched for another $40,000. Anyone can get in the game: A San Jose high school is preparing to launch its own CubeSat. WHO'S WORKING ON IT: CubeSat, SpaceDev, Surrey Satellite Technology MARKET SIZE: $1.5 billion by 2018


WHAT: To propel spaceships or weather satellites cheaply and reliably, solar sails generate thrust by catching photons emitted by the sun. Unlike a rocket, a solar sail would accelerate slowly but constantly. On the first day of its voyage, it will travel at 195 mph; in theory, after 12 days the speedometer will hit 2,300 mph. WHO'S WORKING ON IT: European Space Agency, Kayser-Threde, L'Garde, the Planetary Society, Space Services MARKET SIZE: $350 million by 2014


WHAT: For thrill seekers, this would be the ultimate ride: suborbital (and eventually orbital) adventures on spacecraft like SpaceShipTwo, starting at $200,000 a flight. WHO'S WORKING ON IT: Armadillo Aerospace, Blue Origin, Space Adventures, Virgin Galactic MARKET SIZE: $1 billion a year by 2023