Elon Musk’s company SpaceX has signed a contract with a space tourism company to send up to four passengers into orbit around the Earth.
The contract with Space Adventures will see space tourists get up to five days in orbit inside one of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft.
SpaceX’s president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell said: “This historic mission will forge a path to making spaceflight possible for all people who dream of it.”
It is unlikely to be possible for those who dream of it any time soon. Although no prices have been announced, to-date space tourism has been the exclusive domain of multi-millionaires.
The first mission could launch as soon as 2021, and those travelling to space would need to undergo training before being allowed to journey into orbit.
The deal was announced just as SpaceX lost one of its rockets when a Falcon 9 first-stage booster missed the floating landing pad on its return to Earth.
The reusable rocket successfully launched another batch of Starlink satellites but crashed into the sea, and it is not clear if it will be able to be launched again.
Last year a launchpad test of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon vehicle, intended to fly astronauts to the International Space Station this year – the same that would fly tourists into space – ended in flames.
“This is why we test,” said NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine. “We will learn, make the necessary adjustments and safely move forward with our Commercial Crew Program.”
An investigation into the explosion conducted by both NASA and SpaceX found that the capsule erupted in flames due to a titanium fire after a check valve failed.