Featured image credit: Barcroft Media via Getty Images
While SpaceX has been unofficially considered a space tourism company since they announced the #dearMoon project with Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa in 2018, the Space Adventures agreement takes their involvement in the realm of commercial spaceflight to a new level. Under the agreement, Space Adventures will sell four seats aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule for an orbital flight.
“Honoring our combined histories, this Dragon mission will be a special experience and a once in a lifetime opportunity – capable of reaching twice the altitude of any prior civilian astronaut mission or space station visitor,” said Eric Anderson, Chairman, Space Adventures.
Space Adventures was founded in 1998 and has been the preeminent company in actually providing customers with commercial spaceflight opportunities. By facilitating an agreement with Roscosmos in 2001, American businessman Dennis Tito became the first space tourist and spent seven days aboard the International Space Station. Space Adventures also helped launch six other private citizens to the ISS between 2001 and 2009; today their website offers other space and astronaut experiences including zero-gravity flights, astronaut training, and sub-orbital and lunar flights.
SpaceX has consistently made headlines for successful launches using their Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets over the past decade, but the company has generally focused on payload launches and working to become one of two launch providers for American astronauts to the International Space Station. Their foray into space tourism has been limited to the planned 2023 circumlunar flight with Maezawa and now this four-passenger Crew Dragon deal which is scheduled for as soon as late 2021.
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule is being designed for NASA’s Commercial Crew program. This will bring launch services back to U.S. soil, and SpaceX is one of two companies that will begin flying American astronauts to the International Space Station. SpaceX is expected to do their first manned flight with the Crew Dragon capsule in May 2020.
“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 from Space Adventures.
While pricing has not been announced for this opportunity, but the cost is expected to fall within the range of other orbital space tourism opportunities. For comparison, Canadian businessman Guy Laliberté was the last space tourist to visit the International Space Station and reportedly paid $35 million for his 12-day trip to space.