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SpaceX to sell private space-tourism seats on Crew Dragon

You won't have to be a NASA astronaut to hitch a ride to orbit on a SpaceX spacecraft.

Crew Dragon spacecraft

A Crew Dragon spacecraft with no humans on board docked at the ISS in early 2019.

SpaceX

How do you get to space? You can apply to become an astronaut and undergo years of training. Or you can buy a ride on a SpaceX Crew Dragon through space tourism company Space Adventures. 

On Tuesday, Space Adventures announced an agreement with SpaceX to launch private citizens to orbit on a Crew Dragon spacecraft. Apparently, the interest was so intense that the Space Adventures website went down after SpaceX retweeted the news.

A promo video promises that tourists will "fly further from Earth than anyone in the last 50 years." The expected launch date is set for between late 2021 and the middle of 2022 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The orbital flight would last up to five days. 

Space tourists would need to undergo several weeks of training in the US before launch. Space Adventures co-founder Eric Anderson and the Space Adventures Twitter account filled in a few details.

The Crew Dragon capsule would launch on a Falcon 9 rocket, but it won't dock with the International Space Station. Space Adventures refers to this as a "free-flyer mission." 

Anderson said the spacecraft would attempt to reach a higher altitude than the space station. "Quite unique," he tweeted.

Space Adventures has a track record in orbital tourism. In the first decade of the 2000s, it brokered a series of private flights to the ISS using Russian Soyuz spacecraft for a handful of customers. It also signed a memorandum of understanding with Boeing back in 2010 to fill spare seats on the Starliner crew capsule with space tourists. 

Starliner was plagued by technical issues during a 2019 uncrewed test flight as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program. SpaceX, meanwhile, is preparing its Crew Dragon capsule to carry NASA astronauts to the ISS. 

One big detail still missing from the SpaceX and Space Adventures agreement is the cost of a trip. Space Adventures spokesperson Stacey Tearne told CNET that the "price of the mission will not be disclosed" but that it will be in the same range as other orbital spaceflight opportunities.

Space tourism voyages to the ISS ran well into the multimillion-dollar range. 

"This will provide up to four individuals with the opportunity to break the world altitude record for private citizen spaceflight and see planet Earth the way no one has since the Gemini program," Space Adventures said in a release.

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