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NASA astronaut Suni Williams inside a mockup of a Crew Dragon capsule. Photo: SpaceX

SpaceX has penned a deal with the space tourism outfit Space Adventures to launch private citizens to orbit aboard the company's Crew Dragon capsule.

Why it matters: SpaceX is building and testing the Crew Dragon to fly astronauts to the International Space Station, but this announcement shows they're thinking about orbital space tourism as a possible driver of revenue for them in the future.

Details: The mission is being billed as a "free-flyer" Crew Dragon mission that will allow as many as four people to take a trip to orbit, possibly breaking the altitude record for private individuals in the process, according to Space Adventures.

  • It's not yet clear how much the flight will cost.
  • Space Adventures is a known quantity in space tourism. The company arranged eight missions to the International Space Station for paying customers.

The big picture: A number of companies are looking to capitalize on the idea that paying customers will want to fly to space.

  • Virgin Galactic became the first human spaceflight-focused company to go public, and say they'll fly the company's founder Richard Branson to suborbital space sometime this year.
  • Axiom — a company hoping to build a commercial space station in orbit — expects to host private tourists on their station and plans to make use of both SpaceX and Boeing's systems to fly people there.
  • Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin is planning to launch suborbital flights for paying customers, with their first expected later this year.

Yes, but: SpaceX hasn't flown any people to orbit, so the true test of consumer trust will happen when the company launches its first astronauts in the coming months.

Go deeper

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse under scrutiny for elite club affiliations

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse during a Senate hearing on Capitol Hill in February. Photo: Susan Walsh-Pool/Getty Image

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said in a statement Wednesday that he is a member of an exclusive Rhode Island sailing club that lacks diversity.

Why it matters: Whitehouse has repeatedly spoken out against systemic racism and come under scrutiny this week for his family's affiliation with elite clubs. This is the second such club accused of lacking diversity that the senator has been linked to in recent days

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Border Democrats want migrants vaccinated

Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Tex.) Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Some Democrats representing border districts want President Biden to vaccinate migrants crossing into the U.S. — especially if he lifts public health restrictions that have prevented them from claiming asylum on American soil.

Why it matters: Inoculating migrants treads a fine line of protecting the U.S. population while possibly incentivizing more migration with the offer of free COVID-19 vaccines. Republicans are likely to pounce on that.

3 hours ago - World

State Dept. fears Chinese threats to labor auditors

A space for media is designated by Chinese authorities near a mosque in the Xinjiang region of China. Photo: Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images

The State Department is concerned organizations performing supply-chain audits in China are coming under pressure from Chinese authorities.

Why it matters: U.S. law prohibits importing products made through forced labor, but it's becoming increasingly difficult to verify whether products from China are tainted.