SpaceX has just announced a new partnership with Space Adventures, a space tourism business, with plans to begin sending the first citizens to space at the end of 2021 or in or early 2022. Space Adventures is already known for helping private citizens travel to the International Space Station aboard the Russian Soyuz Rocket. This new partnership with SpaceX will be using a human flight-capable Dragon spacecraft on a Falcon 9 launch vehicle.
The price of a ticket is unknown, as Space Adventures refuses to disclose the price of the mission. It is known that SpaceX and Space Adventures is planning on first sending 4 citizens to space. The most interesting thing about this announcement is the fact that SpaceX is going to use the flight-tested Crew Dragon spacecraft, the same spacecraft that will ferry American astronauts to the International Space Station in a few months. However, didn’t SpaceX say they will begin space tourism with their upcoming Starship + Superheavy launch system? Why switch to the Dragon Spacecraft now? The answer is quite simple.
History of SpaceX and space tourism
SpaceX’s ultimate goal is to colonize Mars, which can only be possible with its under-development “super heavy-lift launch vehicle” – the Starship + Superheavy combo. The upcoming rocket system will be able to carry around 100 people to the Red Planet, using a combination of up to 37 Raptor engines, the company’s next-generation high-efficiency rocket engines.
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However, the development of Starship is expensive and requires lots of resources. SpaceX even recently conducted an open “Career Day” to recruit engineers to work on developing its Starship rocket. The first prototype is expected to launch this year, but Starship won’t be human-rated for at least 2-3 more years, though Elon Musk hopes to have it human-rated by next year.
SpaceX had also announced in 2018 that it will be sending Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, along with a crew of his choice, on one of the first human-rated Starship rockets for a fly-by of the Moon. In early 2017, SpaceX had announced that it received payments from two customers (one was Yusaku) for a trip around the Moon on-board a future human-rated Dragon spacecraft on a Falcon Heavy rocket (the Falcon 9 is not capable of reaching the Moon). However, those plans fizzled out after SpaceX revealed that Starship (called the BFR at that time) would be used for the same purpose, with the ability to way more crew.
Why go back to Dragon now?
Elon Musk has said that he is not looking to raise more funds for SpaceX. Making services commercial is the only way that SpaceX will receive enough cash flow to accelerate the development of its Starship rocket and Mars ambitions. SpaceX already has begun launching numerous Starlink satellites for its plan to cover the entire planet with affordable satellite internet, with plans to even take the business public.
Sending passengers on a human-rated Dragon spacecraft will allow SpaceX to gain a lot of revenue to be used for the development of Starship. It also does not require much of an investment from SpaceX as the company already has completed the development of a human-rated Dragon capsule, the Crew Dragon, under a NASA contract for American astronauts. There are no details regarding pricing. However, we do know how the inside of the Dragon looks like since it is probably going to be the same as the current Crew Dragon.
The companies also said that the height of orbit will be approximately 2-3 times the orbit height of the International Space Station, which orbits at a 250-mile height. Contrary to popular belief, most companies are looking at higher orbits as spacecraft as they can be attained at lower speeds. The lower the orbit, the faster the required speed. It is safer to go to a non-permanent, higher orbit, but still within the LEO (low earth orbit) boundary of 1,200 miles.
Would you be interested in buying a ticket on a Falcon 9 for a quick orbit? Let us know in the comments!
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Source: The Verge