SpaceX has signed with the US company Space Adventures its first agreement to put space tourists into orbit in its Crew Dragon space capsule.
«This historic mission will forge a path to make spaceflight possible for all people who dream of it, and we are pleased to work with the Space Adventures team on the mission,» says SpaceX president and chief operating officer, Gwynne Shotwell, in a statement from Space Adventures.
Under the agreement, Space Adventures will use a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and a Crew Dragon capsule to fly up to four passengers to Earth’s orbit. The trip will reach Earth’s orbit but will not visit the International Space Station.
«This will provide up to four people the opportunity to break the world altitude record for private citizens’ space flights and see the planet Earth as nobody has done since the Gemini program,» Space Adventures representatives said in the statement. The space station orbits the Earth at an average altitude of approximately 400 kilometers.
«Honoring our combined stories, this Dragon mission will be a special experience and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, capable of reaching twice the altitude of any civil astronaut mission or space station visitor,» says Eric Anderson, president of Space Adventures in the statement.
To date, Space Adventures has organized eight orbital trips to the International Space Station for seven wealthy clients: Dennis Tito in 2001; South African businessman Mark Shuttleworth in 2002; American entrepreneurs Greg Olsen in 2005 and Anousheh Ansari in 2006; Microsoft co-founder Charles Simonyi (twice) in 2007 and 2009; computer game developer Richard Garriott in 2008; and the founder of Cirque du Soleil Guy Laliberte in 2009.
All those space flights cost tens of millions of dollars, and the Laliberte flight cost about 35 million for its 11-day trip. The passengers, called «space flight participants», flew to and from the station in Russian Soyuz space capsules under agreements between Space Adventures and Roscosmos, the Russian space agency.
SpaceX or Space Adventures did not announce the duration of the mission or the price of the tourist flight, nor a calendar for its premiere. The free-flight Crew Dragon flight is likely to be launched only after SpaceX begins to fly NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Those trips are expected to begin this year.
The Crew Dragon spacecraft is a reusable space capsule designed to transport up to seven people on trips to and from Earth’s orbit. SpaceX missions for NASA will launch the capsule on a Falcon 9 rocket, visit the International Space Station for months and then return to Earth to land in the Atlantic Ocean.