SpaceX has signed a contract with a space tourism company to arrange a trip orbiting the Earth for a handful of daring travellers.
Space Adventures — which arranged eight tourism trips to the International Space Station between 2001 and 2009 — intends to help organize a flight for four people on-board SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft. The trip could happen in late 2021, as mentioned by a press release and video Space Adventures released Tuesday.
Passengers would spend five days hurtling through Earth’s orbit while clustered inside a gumdrop-shaped spacecraft that measures about 13-feet across.
The flight path could take the tourists to heights two to three times higher than where the International Space Station orbits, according to Space Adventures chairman Eric Anderson. That would be distant from Earth than anyone has toured in decades, proposing views similar to those the astronauts aboard NASA’s Gemini 11 mission saw in 1966, Anderson said via Twitter.
The following step is to find wealthy individuals to pay for the flight. A Space Adventures spokesperson said the cost of the trip will be “in the range as other orbital spaceflight opportunities,” which have have been valued in the tens of millions of dollars.
NASA also requires to certify SpaceX’s Crew Dragon before it can take humans, which could happen in approaching weeks. The spacecraft accomplished its last major testing milestone in January.
SpaceX, Elon Musk’s hard-charging rocket project, got $2.6 billion from NASA in 2014 for the development of Crew Dragon. Boeing reached a similar deal valued at $4.2 billion to upgrade its Starliner spacecraft.
NASA intends to use both companies’ spacecraft to keep the International Space Station fully operated with professionally skilled astronauts. But SpaceX and Boeing will still own and operate their vehicles and will be permitted to use them for other kinds of missions, including space tourism.
Both companies are already discovering those options. Boeing, for instance, signed a deal with Space Adventures in 2010 to organize rides for non-astronauts aboard Starliner.
It should be noticed, however, that plans to fly wealthy thrill-seekers into space are often altered or abandoned.
Previous year, for instance, a company called Bigelow Aerospace said it would arrange trips to the International Space Station using SpaceX’s Crew Dragon. The company planned to sell permits for about $52 million a piece but those plans were afterward canceled.
And in 2017, SpaceX talked about sending travelers on a flight around the moon aboard a Crew Dragon capsule. The company abandoned those plans to focus on designing a gigantic spacecraft and rocket system called Starship, which is currently in the nascent stages of development.
Space Adventures remains the only company to have organized tourism flights to Earth’s orbit. The Virginia-based company has worked with Russia to use its Soyuz spacecraft to fly ultra-rich individuals to the International Space Station. The tourists comprised of entrepreneur and space investor Anousheh Ansari and Cirque du Soleil co-founder Guy Laliberté.
Those missions were valued at around $20 million each.
The space industry could soon be directed for a tourism revolution if SpaceX and Boeing make good on their plans to take travelers to orbit.
SpaceX’s president and chief operating officer, Gwynne Shotwell, said in an announcement Tuesday that the company is “happy to work with the Space Adventures’ team” on a Crew Dragon tourism trip. “This momentous mission will build a path to making spaceflight possible for all people who dream of it,” she said.
Two US-based companies — Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’ space company — are individually developing vehicles for suborbital space tourism. They’ll propose brief flights to about 60 miles over the Earth’s surface for picturesque views and a few minutes of weightlessness.