The partnership with Axiom could launch private astronauts as early as 2021.
SpaceX announced a new partnership to send the first fully private flight with tourists and a tour guide to the International Space Station as early as next year.
The Elon Musk-spearheaded private space company signed a contract with Axiom Space to transport a space tour guide trained by Axiom and three private astronauts to and from the ISS on the Crew Dragon spacecraft.
“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,” SpaceX president and COO Gwynne Shotwell said in a statement Thursday.
“Now, thanks to Axiom and their support from NASA, privately crewed missions will have unprecedented access to the space station, furthering the commercialization of space and helping usher in a new era of human exploration,” Shotwell added.
The mission is set to take place as soon as the second half of 2021. The space tourists will be able to live aboard the ISS for eight days and view Earth from above.
“This history-making flight will represent a watershed moment in the march toward universal and routine access to space,” Michael Suffredini, the CEO of Axiom, said in a statement.
Suffredini said that it will be their first of “many missions” to the ISS. Axiom said it is currently in discussions with NASA and hopes to send at least two private astronauts to the ISS per year to start.
“Procuring the transportation marks significant progress toward that goal, and we’re glad to be working with SpaceX in this effort,” he added.
Axiom is currently in the process of creating an “Axiom Segment” on the ISS beginning in 2024, and when the ISS retires the habitable complex will “detach and operate as a free-flying commercial space station,” according to the company.
The company did not disclose the cost of the private ISS voyage.
The corporate space race has increasingly ramped up in recent months as private companies take flight. Virgin Galactic has previously said it expects to send its first private space tourists this year, and last month announced it was gearing up to sell tickets to space again as demand skyrockets.