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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.

6 mins ago - World

Biden to warn Putin U.S. will add troops in Eastern Europe if Russia invades Ukraine

Putin meets Biden in Geneva. Photo: Peter Klaunzer - Pool/Keystone via Getty

President Biden will warn Russian President Vladimir Putin when they speak on Tuesday that if Russia invades Ukraine, the U.S. is prepared to increase its troop presence, capabilities and military exercises on NATO's "eastern flank," a senior administration official told reporters.

Why it matters: The administration believes it's increasingly likely that Putin will order an invasion.