Feb 18, 2020 - Science

SpaceX inks deal to fly space tourists to orbit

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

Axiom and SpaceX plan to launch private crew to International Space Station

Artist's illustration of Axiom Space's private space station. Photo: Axiom Space

Axiom Space, a company aiming to operate the first commercial space station in orbit, is planning to fly a crew of private citizens to the International Space Station (ISS) as early as next year using SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule.

Why it matters: The announcement comes as NASA is working to expand commercial operations on the space station. These kinds of space tourism flights are expected to be a big part of that.

Go deeperArrowMar 6, 2020 - Science

Space tourism gets ready for launch

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Multiple space tourism companies are aiming to send their first customers to the edge of space before the end of this year.

Why it matters: Right now, most revenue in the space industry is tied up in government contracts, but experts say the maturing industry will need tourism to grow into the $1 trillion economy some predict it could be.

Go deeperArrowFeb 25, 2020 - Science

Podcast: Space tourism blasts off

This year, both Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin plan to fly passengers on suborbital space trips. Dan and and Axios' Miriam Kramer discuss how tourism could change space industry economics, regulation, and size.