SpaceX has a new partner in its quest to conquer private spaceflight. A company called Space Adventures will help SpaceX launch anyone who can afford it into space as soon as late 2021 or mid-2022.
The Space Adventures missions will consist of up to five days free-orbiting in space; passengers will have to complete a few weeks of training beforehand. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon space capsule will be used for the private spaceflight missions that will be able to hold up to four people. The partnership was announced on Tuesday, February 18.
“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 chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell said in a statement from Space Adventures.
The mission will take passengers into a higher orbit than the International Space Station (ISS), which itself sits at an altitude of 254 miles above the Earth, according to Space.com. It will be the first time that humans will orbit that high in space since the Gemini program in 1961.
“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 of Space Adventures, in the statement.
Space Adventures has already taken some lucky (and wealthy) people up to space, including Microsoft co-founder Charles Simonyi, computer game developer Richard Garriott, entrepreneur Dennis Tito, and Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte. Those missions reportedly cost around $30 million to $35 million.
Before SpaceX’s Crew Dragon can be used for space tourism, however, it has to be ready to carry a crew of NASA astronauts to the ISS. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk hopes that 2020 will finally be the year that the Crew Dragon capsule will be ready, with new reports even saying that it would be ready by May.
The Crew Dragon capsule will be carried to space using the company’s reusable Falcon 9 rocket. Besides returning the capsule with passengers inside, the system is also meant to recover the main rocket booster, which lands back on Earth, and the rocket faring.
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