How SpaceX CEO Elon Musk Is Helping Space Tourism Become A Reality

Following the successful test flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon last weekend, CEO Elon Musk has expressed his interest to use the spacecraft for space tourism in the future. 

Crew Dragon is originally designed to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS). SpaceX and NASA conducted the first unmanned flight of the spacecraft over the past weekend that was part of a series of tests before the company gets the approval to use it for future missions, reported.

Crew Dragon successfully docked on the ISS on Sunday, which was the main goal of the demonstration. With the initial success, Musk showed confidence that the spacecraft could bring humans to a number of orbital destinations in the future. 

SpaceX hopes to send the first two astronauts to orbit this summer using Crew Dragon, Forbes reported Monday. The company’s contract with NASA includes six missions to carry four astronauts to the ISS.

If all of them are successful, SpaceX aims to build a variant of Crew Dragon that will be available for commercial use to bring tourists into Earth’s orbit. The new spacecraft is expected to carry seven people per flight. 

“Once Dragon is in regular operation, I think we will seek commercial customers,” Musk said in a press conference after the Crew Dragon launch.

The commercial spacecraft would bring tourists to various locations in orbit, including future “space hotels.” A number of companies have already announced plans to build infrastructures outside Earth that will accommodate future travelers in space. 

In 2018, Nevada-based Bigelow Aerospace said it is going to conduct a demonstration of its space hotel in 2021. The company sent a prototype habitat to the ISS for initial testing in 2016. 

“These single structures that house humans on a permanent basis will be the largest, most complex structures ever known as stations for human use in space,” the company said in a statement.

Bigelow’s space hotel would also enable scientists to conduct experiments in space.

Texas-based Axiom Space is also among the companies aiming to build orbital outposts in the future. The company said its infrastructure would “make living and working in space commonplace.”

Another company, which is already sending equipment to the ISS, wants to build its own private space station. NanoRacks, also from Texas, intends to recycle rockets and convert them into orbital outposts that could be serviced by Crew Dragon.