Axiom’s first mission could launch as soon as the second half of 2021, according to a joint press release.
Crew Dragon will link up with the space station and allow the passengers to spend at least eight days there before returning to Earth.
“This will be just the first of many missions to ISS to be completely crewed and managed by Axiom Space -— a first for a commercial entity,” said Axiom CEO Michael Suffredini, who served as manager of NASA’s International Space Station program from 2005 to 2015, in a statement. “Procuring the transportation marks significant progress toward that goal.”
Axiom declined to share information about pricing, but previous tourism missions to the ISS have cost passengers tens of millions of dollars.
Axiom’s tourism mission could mark the first time in history that a US spacecraft is used to take tourists to the ISS.
Both spacecraft are years overdue. And since 2011, NASA has relied on the Russian-made Soyuz spacecraft to get US astronauts to the space station.
But after completing its last major testing milestone in January, Crew Dragon now appears to be on track to fly its first crewed mission by spring.
NASA has said from the beginning that, even though it paid for development of the spacecraft, Boeing and SpaceX will still own and operate their vehicles and will be allowed to use them for other types of missions, including space tourism.
The ISS, which is essentially a giant orbiting laboratory, has hosted a rotating staff of astronauts from the US and dozens of other countries for the past two decades. NASA has talked at length about encouraging more commercial activity at the space station, which orbits about 200 miles above ground.
Last year, the space agency said it would allow up to two trips to the ISS per year for non-government astronauts.
A NASA spokesperson said Axiom’s tourism plan is in line with its “broad strategy to facilitate the commercialization” of space. Though, the agency’s priority is to get Crew Dragon ready to fly its own astronauts, the NASA spokesperson said via email.
It should be noted that plans to fly wealthy thrill-seekers into space are frequently altered or abandoned.
Last year, for example, a company called Bigelow Aerospace said it would organize trips to the ISS using SpaceX’s Crew Dragon. The company planned to sell tickets for about $52 million a piece, but those plans were later canceled.
The space industry could soon be headed for a tourism revolution if SpaceX and others make good on their plans.