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Aurora Station
An artist’s conception shows Orion Span’s Aurora Station with a spaceship nearby. (Orion Span Illustration)

Orion Span, a Houston-based venture that’s planning to put a luxury hotel in orbit, has kicked off a crowdfunding effort aimed at raising up to $2 million in new investment.

The campaign is being run through SeedInvest, an online investment service that operates under a special set of regulations developed by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The system is similar to crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter — but instead of getting T-shirt rewards or discounts on gizmos, the contributors receive securities, typically in the form of equity in the company.

During the first hours of the 50-day campaign, Orion Span attracted more than $150,000 in investment. The funding round can amount to as much as $2 million, with a $5 million valuation cap.

In a news release, Orion Span founder and CEO Frank Bunger said the crowdfunding campaign provided a “perfect opportunity to enable everyone to invest” in Orion Span’s vision of making space more accessible with its orbital Aurora Station.

“When we introduced Aurora Station earlier this year, we had an incredible, almost overwhelming response,” Bunger said. “It wasn’t a surprise, as there is so much excitement around the prospect of space travel right now. We’re thrilled to be opening up this project to the broader public, giving everyone a chance to chip in on the ultimate mission to colonize space, and share in this historic moment.”

Getting Aurora Station ready for occupants is certain to require more than a few million dollars. Orion Span’s plans call for the standalone space station to be built in-house and sent into low Earth orbit in 2021, with 12-day trips becoming available in 2022.

Tickets for the tours are expected to start at $9.5 million per person. The company is already taking reservations for deposits of $80,000 (payable in dollars or cryptocurrency).

A lot of the logistical details — including the identities of Orion Span’s investors and launch providers — have yet to be laid out. And there are several other commercial ventures angling for the space hotel market.

Nevada-based Bigelow Aerospace has set up a separate company to create private-sector orbital outposts. Texas-based Axiom Space says it’s planning to offer orbital travel packages for $55 million, starting as early as 2020. And NanoRacks, another Houston-based company, has its own development program for retrofitting rocket upper stages as habitable space outposts.

For now, Orion Span is the only space hotel venture that’s turned to the crowdfunding model, but be prepared to wait a while for any payout: The securities that are provided through SeedInvest won’t be tradeable until Orion Span gets listed on a national exchange — or until it’s acquired.

Correction: An earlier version of this report gave an incorrect amount for the SeedInvest funding round. In a tweet, Orion Span said it’s a $2 million campaign, not a $5 million campaign. The $5 million figure refers to the valuation cap as specified on SeedInvest’s webpage. Check out Orion Span’s website and the SeedInvest webpage, as well as the documents linked online, for details on how the crowdfunding arrangement works.

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