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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.

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Feb 1, 2021 - Science

SpaceX flight will be the first all-civilian mission to space

A crewed SpaceX rocket streaks to orbit. Photo: SpaceX

Billionaire Jared Isaacman has effectively chartered a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule for the first all-civilian mission to orbit, expected to launch later this year.

Why it matters: The mission is ringing in a new era of commercial spaceflight, one where those with the means can make their orbital dreams a reality without involving government spacecraft.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Feb 2, 2021 - Science

Billionaire battles are shaping our future in space

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Amazon and SpaceX's scuffle about satellites shows how competitions between companies today are shaping humanity's future in space.

Why it matters: Billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are influencing the push for humans to settle the solar system — from a city on Mars to large space stations in orbit.

Dave Lawler, author of World
1 hour ago - World

Americans increasingly see China as an enemy

One in three Americans, and a majority of Republicans, now view China as an enemy of the United States, according to a new survey from Pew Research Center.

By the numbers: Just 9% of Americans consider China a "partner," while 55% see Beijing as a "competitor" and 34% as an "enemy."