SpaceX to take tourists to space in 2021

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US-based aerospace manufacturer and space transportation services company SpaceX has signed a deal with start-up company Axiom Space to take tourists and others to the International Space Station (ISS).

Founded in 2002 by South African-born Elon Musk, SpaceX has the goal of reducing space transportation costs to enable the colonisation of Mars.

In a statement, Axiom Space says it has signed a contract with SpaceX for a Crew Dragon flight which will transport a commander professionally trained by the start-up company, alongside three private astronauts to and from the ISS.

The mission, set to launch as soon as the second half of 2021, will allow the crew to live aboard the ISS and experience at least eight days of microgravity and views of Earth that can only be fully appreciated in the large, venerable station.

“This history-making flight will represent a watershed moment in the march toward universal and routine access to space,” says Axiom CEO Michael Suffredini.

“This will be just the first of many missions to ISS to be completely crewed and managed by Axiom Space – a first for a commercial entity. Procuring the transportation marks significant progress towards that goal, and we’re glad to be working with SpaceX in this effort.”

This is the first of Axiom’s proposed “precursor missions” to the ISS envisioned under its Space Act Agreement with NASA.

Discussions with NASA are under way to establish additional enabling agreements for the private astronaut missions to ISS, says the company.

Axiom plans to offer professional and private astronaut flights to ISS at a rate of up to two per year to align with flight opportunities as they are made available by NASA, while simultaneously constructing its own privately-funded space station.

“Since 2012, SpaceX has been delivering cargo to the International Space Station in partnership with NASA, and later this year, we will fly NASA astronauts for the first time,” says SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell.

“Now, thanks to Axiom and their support from NASA, privately crewed missions will have unprecedented access to the space station, furthering the commercialisation of space and helping usher in a new era of human exploration.”

According to CNN, Axiom declined to share information about pricing, but previous tourism missions to the ISS have cost passengers tens of millions of dollars.

It reports that the Axiom deal marks the second space tourism-related announcement for SpaceX in a month. The company said in February it will work with a company called Space Adventures to organise a trip orbiting the Earth for a handful of travellers.

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