SpaceX is going to take three tourists on a 10-day trip to the International Space Station (ISS) sometime in late 2021. It is going to use its Falcon 9 rocket along with its latest Crew Dragon spacecraft, the company declared on Thursday. This registers the second big space tourism declaration from the company this year.
The orbital vacation is in sync with a deal that SpaceX signed with Houston-based startup Axiom Space, which is going to manage the logistics of the trip for the three private citizens. While seven private citizens have been on the ISS (one of them even went twice), this mission is going to be the first fully private trip to the ISS.
The space tourists are going to spend two days traveling to and from the orbital space station and a minimum of eight days onboard, spending time and sharing ‘space’ with the astronauts who work there. Tickets are going to cost around $55 million, and one seat has already been booked, as per The New York Times. The trip was made possible after NASA declared last year that it would begin opening up the ISS to more commercial activities such as space tourism.
SpaceX has worked the last few years creating a fresh version of its Dragon spacecraft that’s rated for human flight as part of a program to take NASA astronauts to the ISS. Recently, the private spaceflight company finished a second major flight test of the latest version of Dragon where it exhibited the ability to get rid of an exploding rocket. The first flight with NASA astronauts on board is expected to happen later this year.
Many more companies are in the Race
However, SpaceX isn’t just aiming at becoming a taxi for astronauts. The company is continuously grasping space tourism as a possible revenue stream. Last month, SpaceX declared that it is working with Space Adventures, a space tourism company to take up to four private citizens into orbit around the Earth sometime in late 2021 or early 2022.
In general, off-world tourism is engaging a lot more interest and investment lately now that multiple private companies have exhibited the ability to reach space. Virgin Galactic by Richard Branson recently became the first publicly traded space tourism company, with plans to provide multiple people a few minutes of weightlessness in its massive spaceplane for a few hundred thousand dollars. Spaceflight company of Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin is claiming a similarly brief experience to tourists who ride to space on its Latest Shepard rocket.
So far, what SpaceX is providing seems to be far heftier than either of those options, which explains the higher price tag. The company has even larger plans, too, with a tourist trip around the Moon slated for sometime in the next few years as well as aspirations to take people to Mars.
As for Axiom, the startup states there could be many trips to the ISS following this one. “This history-making flight will represent a watershed moment in the march toward universal and routine access to space,” Michael Suffredini, Axiom CEO said in a statement. “This will be just the first of many missions to ISS to be completely crewed and managed by Axiom Space – a first for a commercial entity. Procuring the transportation marks significant progress toward that goal, and we’re glad to be working with SpaceX in this effort.”
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