Orbital space tourism set to take off later this year

The Inspiration 4 crew. From left to right: Chris Sembroski, Hayley Arceneaux, Sian Proctor and Jared Isaacman. This flight is expected to be the first orbital space tourism mission since 2009 and the first 100% civilian crew to fly in low earth orbit. Credit: SpaceX

In the space of about six months, as many as a dozen new “space tourists” could fly into low earth orbit on four flights starting in September.

2021 could mark a resurgence in the space tourism market, which took a hiatus in 2009, starting with SpaceX sending the first 100% civilian mission into low Earth orbit.

Launch inside Crew Dragon Resilience on top of a Falcon 9 rocket in September from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Shift4 Payments founder and CEO Jared Isaacman will be the commanding officer of the Mission Inspiration4. He will fly with the other crew members Hayley Arceneaux, Sian Proctor and Christopher Sembroski.

The crew will circle Earth every 90 minutes for a mission that will last for several days before re-entering the atmosphere for a freshwater landing off the coast of Florida. Elon Musk has said that flying a Falcon 9 feels like a “really intense roller coaster.”

SpaceX is developing a special window to replace Inspiration4’s docking port. Credit: SpaceX

Meanwhile, Blue Origin is expected to send its first crew of astronauts to New Shepard suborbital space as early as July 20, 2021. The company has offered a seat to the winner of an online auction, which is expected to peak on June 12. should go towards Blue Origin’s foundation, Club for the Future, intended to inspire careers in STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – for future generations.

Another suborbital spaceflight company, Virgin Galactic, recently announced that its space tourism program has been postponed until 2022. The problems started with a disappointing launch in December 2020, when a rocket engine for SpaceShipTwo failed. is not on fire. The hope was that if the flight went as planned, technicians would focus on improving private commercial spaceflight.

Finally, on May 22, 2021, from Spaceport America in New Mexico, Virgin Galactic successfully performed the first manned space flight from there, setting the company on the path to continuing its quest for human spaceflight and tourism.

SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity is heading to climax after its maiden space flight from Spaceport America in New Mexico.  Credit: Virgin Galactic

SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity is heading to climax after its maiden space flight from Spaceport America in New Mexico. Credit: Virgin Galactic

Back on the orbital side of space tourism, Axiom Space and NASA recently announced their intention to launch the first private astronaut mission to the International Space Station as early as January 2022 from the Kennedy Space Center.

The private astronauts of the Ax-1 mission, who are slated to fly in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, are Michael López-Alegría, Larry Connor, Mark Pathy and Eytan Stibbe. The mission commander for this mission will be López-Alegría, a former NASA astronaut, and current Axiom vice president with Peggy Whitson and John Shoffner as alternates.

Several other private Axiom Space missions are planned over the next few years.

Halfway around the world, Russia also hopes to attract more private customers for flights to the ISS.

Two of the three seats in the next Soyuz capsule, Soyuz MS-19, are expected to be occupied by a Russian director and actor for an upcoming Russian film. The director of the film, called Challenge, is Klim Shipenko. He will fly with actor Yulia Peresild.

The Soyuz MS-18 is launched from Kazakhstan for a two-orbital trip to the International Space Station in April 2021. Participants in the space flight flying to the ISS aboard the Soyuz MS-19 in October are expected to return to the Soyuz MS -18.  Credit: NASA

The Soyuz MS-18 is launched from Kazakhstan for a two-orbital trip to the International Space Station in April 2021. Participants in the space flight flying to the ISS aboard the Soyuz MS-19 in October are expected to return to the Soyuz MS -18. Credit: NASA

The launch is scheduled for early October 2021 and will also bring Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov to the ISS for a six-month stay. After about a week, the Shipenko and Peresild are expected to return to Earth aboard the Soyuz MS-18 with Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky.

The first Soyuz mission was also recently announced to not deliver ISS crew members to the outpost, the Soyuz MS-20.

While the Soyuz MS-20 will still visit the orbiting lab for around 10 days starting in December, it will include two spaceflight participants, Yusaku Maezawa (who is also expected to fly around the Moon later this decade in a SpaceX Starship spacecraft) and his production assistant, Yozo Hirano. Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin is expected to command the flight.

In total, as many as 12 private spaceflight participants hope to fly into low earth orbit in about six months from September.

For comparison, in 2001 the first “space tourist”, Dennis Tito, embarked on the ISS for a week in a Soyuz spacecraft through a company called Space Adventures, which partnered with Roscosmos. Between that date and 2009, only six others had made the same trip with one, Charles Simonyi, flying in 2007 and 2009.

Dennis Tito, the first orbital space tourist, floats inside the International Space Station in 2001. Credit: NASA

Dennis Tito, left, the first orbital space tourist, floats inside the International Space Station in 2001. Credit: NASA

Tagged: Axiom Space Blue Origin Origin of human space flight4 Lead Stories NASA Roscosmos Space Adventures Space Tourism SpaceX Virgin Galactic

Theresa Cross

Theresa Cross grew up on the Space Coast. It is natural that she develops a passion for all that is “space” and its exploration. During these formative years, she also discovered that she possessed a talent and love for defining the unique quirks and intricacies that exist in humanity, nature, and machines. Coming from a family of photographers – including her father and son, Theresa herself began documenting her world through images at a very young age. As an adult, she now exhibits an innate photographic ability to combine what pleases her at heart and her love of technology to offer a diverse approach to her work and artistic presentations. Theresa has a background in water chemistry, fluid dynamics and industrial utility.


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