Will SpaceX Offer Space Tourism?

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On April 28, 2001, Dennis Tito, a wealthy entrepreneur, paid $20 million for a seat on a Russian rocket, Soyuz, to become the first tourist to visit the International Space Station (ISS). Since then, hundreds of people have been to space, but the truth is that space travel remains a costly adventure even for the wealthiest people. That may change soon, though.

Before the end of this decade, space tourism could become an affordable venture available to more people, thanks to SpaceX.

SpaceX was founded in 2002 by Elon Reeve Musk, a wealthy businessman with a vision to bring humanity to Mars. The main goal for SpaceX is to reduce the costs of space travel and revive people’s interest in space exploration.

Thus far, the company has made remarkable progress in achieving its goals, like when they completed the Inspiration4 mission. However, before colonizing Mars, there’s a need to ensure that space is safe and habitable. And that’s where space tourism comes in.

This article will cover some key events and signs of progress, proving that SpaceX will offer space tourism. Keep reading to find out more.

What Exactly Is Space Tourism?

Not everyone that goes to space is a “space tourist.” Some go there for scientific studies, and others to launch company satellites like the Starlink constellation. Thus, space tourism can be defined as traveling to space for recreational purposes. There are five types of space tourism, namely:

  • Suborbital space tourism
  • Orbital space tourism
  • Lunar space tourism
  • Mars tourism
  • Beyond Mars tourism

Thus far, orbital space tourism is the most popular and performed by the Russian space agency.

The Green Light From NASA

In the past, NASA has dominated the field of space tourism, making it hard for private institutions to participate in this futuristic venture. However, in 2019 the organization announced that it would allow private astronauts to start traveling to the ISS using the Crew Dragon – a reusable rocket manufactured by SpaceX. This announcement opened doors for private companies to begin offering space tourism to the general public, SpaceX included.

Inspiration4 and What It Means for Space Tourism

We can’t discuss SpaceX and space tourism without mentioning the first ever all-civilian mission, Inspiration4. The mission was thought up by Jared Isaacman, a 40-year-old billionaire who owns Draken, a private airline, and Shift4 Payments, an online payment gateway. The billionaire purchased all four seats on the crew and invited three other members to accompany him on the ride.

While Isaacman didn’t reveal the amount he paid, USA Today estimates the number could have been in the tens of millions. After all, space tourism isn’t exactly affordable for the average person.

The members aboard include Hayley Arceneaux, a childhood cancer survivor and a physician assistant at St. Jude Hospital. From the start, Isaacman knew he wanted a St. Jude employee to fly, and the hospital recommended Arceneaux.

Also aboard was Chris Sembroski, an engineer at Lockheed Martin in Everett, Washington. He was selected by contributing to St. Jude and entering a lottery to win a seat. Unfortunately, he lost the drawing, but the person who won was his best friend, who decided to turn down the offer for personal reasons and recommended he take his place.

The final member on the crew was Sian Proctor, a geosciences professor at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix, Arizona. Sian Proctor was a two-time NASA astronaut candidate who was never chosen. She won her spot on Inspiration4 through a competition in which contestants were supposed to develop an online store using the Shift4 Payments gateway. Contestants also shared their entrepreneurial and space visions through an online campaign.

The mission of Inspiration4 was to help democratize space travel and show everyday people that space is indeed a place for all. Another goal was to raise awareness and funds for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Other civilians have previously been in space. For example, NASA’s current administrator, Bill Nielsen, went to space as a congressman in 1986. However, these civilians have always been part of a crew that includes professional astronauts. And that’s what makes Inspiration4 different – a mission without professional astronauts.

Inspiration4 flew for three days at an altitude of 365 miles, higher than the Hubble Space Telescope. The crew was powered by SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, which was launched on top of the Falcon 9 rocket. The mission was managed by SpaceX’s mission control center in Hawthorne, California.

After three days of orbiting space, the crew returned safely to Earth. According to Isaacman, the mission was made possible by SpaceX and not NASA. Inspiration4 marked the first ever mission that included all-civilian space tourists and marked an important milestone in space tourism. The mission was just the beginning of space tourism for SpaceX, and the company has plans to take part in many other similar tasks.

Starship: The Ultimate Vehicle to Space

To make space tourism accessible and affordable, SpaceX is developing a new and advanced rocket called Starship. The Starship rocket is a fully reusable launch vehicle that relies on a booster stage called the Super Heavy Booster to reach the Earth’s orbit. The Starship can carry approximately 200 tons of mass to the orbit of the Earth at affordable costs.

Musk envisions that the ship would be able to carry about 1,000 people without running into any problems. However, these are just speculations, and it’s best to wait till the ship has launched – time will tell. SpaceX also intends to build a city called Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas. The company will set up luxury hotels and resorts in the city for its high-paying space tourists.

Will SpaceX Offer Space Tourism?

How SpaceX Plans to Use the Starship Rocket for Earth-to-Earth Space Tourism

The first plan that SpaceX has for space tourism is Earth-to-Earth space tourism, also called orbital space tourism. The Starship will power this kind of tourism, and the flights will take around twenty minutes and at most 1 hour.

During that time, the space tourists will view the Earth’s surface from the lower parts of the Earth’s orbit and even experience microgravity for a few minutes. The craft will only have couches. There will be no toilets, food galleries, or pilot areas. After all, it’s just 20 minutes.

That said, how much will it cost?

The main cost incurred will be refurbishing the Starship rocket because the rocket will be fully reusable. In a tweet, Musk relayed that the Super Heavy Propellant weighs 4,800 tons (22% methane and 78% oxygen). However, he’s confident that the costs of the propellant can come down to $100 per ton, which would translate to half a million per flight.

Musk also disclosed that the Super Heavy doesn’t require a heavy booster for most Earth-to-Earth flights. This cuts down the fuel cost to just $100,000, given that it will cost $100 per ton as stipulated by Musk.

Also, the refurbishment costs for the Starship will be about $150,000, which will total to less than $500,000 per flight, including SpaceX’s profits. With this math, Musk hopes to lower the total costs of space travel to less than $500 per seat.

The dearMoon Project: Another Shot at Lunar Space Tourism

SpaceX also has a big space tourism mission scheduled in 2023 called the dearMoon. The dearMoon mission is a project that will see humans head to the Moon again after almost five decades. But this time, people are not just going to the surface of the Moon – it will be a trip around and beyond the satellite. It will also be a historical moment because it will be the first private crew to head to the Moon.

The project dearMoon mission is spearheaded by Yusaku Maezawa, a wealthy Japanese entrepreneur. The mission is scheduled for next year and powered by Starship, the next generation fully reusable rocket that SpaceX is currently developing.

Maezawa has already purchased eight seats and calls upon eight civilians to join him on the ride. While Maezawa has not publicly disclosed how much he’s paying, sources say that the amount was significant enough to purchase raw materials worth $5 billion, which are being used in developing SpaceX.

But what does the CEO of SpaceX have to say about the dearMoon? When asked whether the project was on track, Musk noted that the Starship would be ready and safe for human space travel by 2023. He’s also excited that SpaceX will be facilitating the project.


SpaceX is not the only company spreading its roots into space tourism. But, like any other business, the company competes with other big companies hoping to dominate the space tourism niche. SpaceX’s big competitors include Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.

The Sky Isn’t the Limit After All

The age of space tourism is upon us, and SpaceX is at the forefront of making it accessible to all. Through missions like Inspiration4, the company has demonstrated that it’s more than capable of safely launching people into space. The company also has excellent space tourism projects like the dearMoon mission in the works, which proves that SpaceX is working tirelessly to revolutionize the field of tourism.

While there are many advancements that SpaceX is making in rocket technology, there are still more significant risks involved with launching people to space than launching cargo. But despite this, brave men like Maezawa are ready to take on these risks to help humankind discover what lies beyond the horizon.

Sadly, the high cost of space tourism remains a significant setback for those willing to try out the venture. Hopefully, SpaceX will help lower these costs and finally make humans a multi-planetary species.

What do you think is the future of space tourism? Please let us know in the comments section below.

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