Musk’s SpaceX plans all-civilian space flight with tech CEO

HAWTHORNE, California – Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies is planning the first all-civilian orbital spaceflight later this year, to be led by a technology entrepreneur who will be joined by three other people.

The flight is expected for the fourth quarter, SpaceX and Jared Isaacman said in a statement Monday (Feb 1). Isaacman, the founder and chief executive officer of Shift4 Payments, a payment processor, said he wants the planned multiday “Inspiration4” flight to inspire support for St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Tennessee, United States.

Isaacman, 37, plans to donate three other seats on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, with one going to an ambassador of St Jude and another slated for a member of the public who can vie for a chance to join the flight. The fourth seat is reserved for an entrepreneur who uses Isaacman’s Shift4Shop e-commerce platform. That person will be able to enter an online contest this month to determine the winner of that seat.

Shift4 plans to introduce the mission on Feb 7 with a 30-second ad during the first quarter of the Super Bowl. The flight is “a step towards a future in which anyone can venture out and explore the stars,” Isaacman said in the statement. He has committed to give US$100 million (S$132.7 million) to St Jude and is attempting to raise US$200 million or more.

Last week, Houston-based Axiom Space announced the four-person crew for its first private space flight aboard SpaceX’s Dragon craft to the International Space Station. That mission in early 2022 will be led by a former Aeronautics and Space Administration astronaut, joined by three private astronauts.

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