SpaceX signs deal to fly 4 space tourists around Earth in about two years

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The interior of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule


SpaceX will fly four privately-paying space tourists to orbit in its Crew Dragon capsule, the company unveiled on Tuesday.

“This historic mission will forge a path to making spaceflight possible for all people who dream of it, and we are pleased to work with the Space Adventures’ team on the mission,” SpaceX president and COO Gwynne Shotwell said in a statement.

The customers will be brokered through Space Adventures, a company that’s flown private citizens to the International Space Station using Russian spacecraft. The firm said this Crew Dragon mission will allow four individuals to “see planet Earth the way no one has since the Gemini program” of the 1960s.

Crew Dragon is a capsule SpaceX has been developing for NASA. The spacecraft is built to fly astronauts to the International Space Station, a capability the U.S. has lacked for nearly a decade. SpaceX plans to launch its first NASA astronauts between April and June of this year.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is rolled out for the Demo-1 mission in March.

NASA | Joel Kowsky

Space Adventures said the mission would last five days and is expected to launch between “late-2021 to mid-2022” from Florida’s Cape Canaveral spaceport. Training for the mission would take “a few weeks,” Space Adventures said.

The mission is a “free-flyer,” meaning that it will not try to dock with the space station but instead will simply orbit the Earth before returning. Space Adventures founder Eric Anderson said that this mission will attempt to reach two to three times the altitude of the ISS, which orbits at an altitude of about 250 miles up.

The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. However, SpaceX last year had a deal with Bigelow Aerospace to fly individuals to the ISS for about $52 million per person. Although Bigelow later withdrew from that deal, the announcement came after NASA said it will open the ISS for “private astronaut missions of up to 30 days,” with the first mission as early as this year.

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