SpaceX, an advanced spacecraft and rocket manufacturer, has recently signed an agreement with Space Adventures (SA), a space tourism company to advance private space tourism. Under the terms of the agreement, SpaceX will launch wealthy space tourists on the Crew Dragon spacecraft to record heights. This historic development is likely to be considered as a step towards the new era of private spaceflight.
SpaceX’s inaugural launch of the Crew Dragon capsule will take place in the next two to three months. SA’s newest proposal for orbital tourism will not be affiliated with Roscosmos or NASA, aside from simplification of training and bureaucracy involved.
Space Adventures has specifically stated that the tourists could reach up to an altitude surpassed only by Gemini 11 astronauts. Gemini 11 astronauts set a record for reaching an apogee of 1350 km within the Earth orbit.
In the newest free-flying mission, the space tourists will not be rendezvousing with the ISS or NASA. Instead, they will serve as their own miniature outpost in LEO (Low Earth Orbit) for several days. The mission will save large portion of costs and time associated with space operations and training civilians through its flight-proven hardware, as compared to the SA’s past tourist flight to the ISS and the NASA baseline.
The spacecraft will reportedly carry two NASA astronauts to the ISS (International Space Station) to orbit the Earth, and is expected to take several weeks, or even months, before making its way back to Earth.
Space Adventures, under agreement with Roscosmos, a Russian space agency, has arranged 8 separate spaceflights for 7 private citizens to the ISS through Soyuz rocket and spacecraft during 2001 to 2009. These journeys involved 7-day visits to the ISS, where the private astronauts could assist with scientific experiments as well as observe the routine space station operations.
The launch of the Crew Dragon’s first mission of private astronaut spaceflight is expected to occur by as early as the end of 2021 or the beginning of 2022.