Sub-Orbital Space Travel, Asteroid Mining Find Favour With International ‘Rocket Set’
So how have notions once the preserve of science fiction found their way into a sober document like the Knight Frank 2014 Wealth Report? After all, this is one of the most-referred-to documents in international real estate. What gives?
The latest edition of Knight Frank’s Wealth Report gives space to the rising trend for private money to finance space research. Asteroid mining really does make the list, yes, but what’s of interest more directly to property investors, owners and purchasers is the renewed focus on sub-orbital space travel.
You only have to look at the history of the American West to see how a new form of transport can utterly revolutionize the way towns are laid out. When railways came along, railway towns sprang up. A generation or two later, roads predominated and railway towns were abandoned.
Right now the dominant forms of transport are aeroplanes, and in some places high speed rail. Mostly, though, your house is worth more, your hotel attracts more investment, your square metre of land is more interesting to people in Singapore, China, Florida, London, New York, the closer it is to the airport.
What if all that’s about to change?
The map of the world that’s drawn by air connections is defined by how long it takes to get from one place to another. Distant destinations in beautiful spots are reduced in desirability because of the time it takes to reach them. But the technology exists to change that and now it looks like the will does as well.
Frank Knight has identified over 70 individuals with a net wealth of over $200bn, who are targeting sub-orbital space transport as an investment opportunity. The appeal of sub-orbital is that allows for very very fast transport times. By taking a plane into the upper atmosphere where drag is less, and by using the Earth’s own gravity as part of the propulsion system, sub-orbital planes could achieve velocities in excess of 4,000 miles per hour, slashing transport times around the world to a few hours at most.
Currently, it takes 21 hours to fly from London to Sydney. In a sub-orbital plane, that could be cut to 2 hours 10 minutes – the kind of time we associate with short hops within a country or from one European neighbour to another, not to fly around the world.
The results could reconfigure the world property investment map.
Currently, one of the reasons for London’s popularity is that, compared to New York, it’s far more accessible for Middle Eastern, African, Russian and European investors. But when those investors can get to New York from Moscow in an hour, They might prefer the taste of the Big Apple. When it takes just 1 hour 30 minutes to fly from Dubai to Vancouver, Middle Eastern investors might begin to think that dolphins, scenery and easy access to Seattle and Silicon Valley trump an NW postcode.
The technology to achieve sub-orbital flight has been available for some time, and there are embryonic commercial concerns like Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic waiting in the wings. The knock-on effect of a technology that does to jet flight what jet flight did for sea transport is hard to see with any level of detail, but with $200bn on the launchpad it’s not a question of if; it’s a question of when.