Feb 2, 2021 - Science

How to win a flight to space

A Crew Dragon capsule on approach to the International Space Station

A Crew Dragon in space. Photo: NASA

A flight to space aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule expected to launch by the end of the year will help define the new age of commercial spaceflight — one where companies, not governments, bring private citizens to orbit.

Why it matters: The space industry is working to create a sustainable space economy in orbit, to support NASA missions and business ventures alike. Tourist flights are expected to be a big part of that.

Catch up quick: Businessman Jared Isaacman and SpaceX announced Monday that Isaacman has chartered a flight to orbit for him and three other passengers aboard a Crew Dragon.

  • Isaacman has already chosen one fellow crewmember — an as-yet-unnamed woman who was chosen for the flight as an ambassador for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
  • He is also running a raffle that anyone can enter to possibly win a seat on the trip. The money raised as part of the raffle will be given to the hospital.
  • The fourth seat will go to the winner of an online competition run through Isaacman's Shift4Shop company.

Between the lines: "Any mission where there’s a crew onboard makes me nervous,” Musk said during an interview with NBC Nightly News. “The risk is not zero.”

The big picture: This isn't the only private flight on SpaceX's roster. A Crew Dragon will also fly a four-person Axiom mission to the International Space Station in early 2022.

What they're saying: "More private missions to space are great for everyone," Axiom said in a statement. "To normalize private spaceflight and drive costs down over time, it is essential now for as many of those who can go — or can sponsor others to go — to do so."

  • NASA's head of human spaceflight Kathy Lueders sees Isaacman's mission as a natural outgrowth of the space agency's Commercial Crew Program that helped in the development of SpaceX crewed system.
  • "Excited to see one of the original goals of @Commercial_Crew come to be with the expansion of new commercial activities beyond our own in low-Earth orbit," Leuders tweeted.
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