SpaceX to Send Two Space Tourists Around the Moon in 2018

SpaceX Crew Dragon Weldment Structure (Credit: SpaceX)

HAWTHORNE, Calif. (SpaceX PR) — We are excited to announce that SpaceX has been approached to fly two private citizens on a trip around the moon late next year. They have already paid a significant deposit to do a moon mission.

Like the Apollo astronauts before them, these individuals will travel into space carrying the hopes and dreams of all humankind, driven by the universal human spirit of exploration. We expect to conduct health and fitness tests, as well as begin initial training later this year.

Other flight teams have also expressed strong interest and we expect more to follow. Additional information will be released about the flight teams, contingent upon their approval and confirmation of the health and fitness test results.

Most importantly, we would like to thank NASA, without whom this would not be possible. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which provided most of the funding for Dragon 2 development, is a key enabler for this mission.

In addition, this will make use of the Falcon Heavy rocket, which was developed with internal SpaceX funding. Falcon Heavy is due to launch its first test flight this summer and, once successful, will be the most powerful vehicle to reach orbit after the Saturn V moon rocket. At 5 million pounds of liftoff thrust, Falcon Heavy is two-thirds the thrust of Saturn V and more than double the thrust of the next largest launch vehicle currently flying.

Later this year, as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, we will launch our Crew Dragon (Dragon Version 2) spacecraft to the International Space Station. This first demonstration mission will be in automatic mode, without people on board. A subsequent mission with crew is expected to fly in the second quarter of 2018.

SpaceX is currently contracted to perform an average of four Dragon 2 missions to the ISS per year, three carrying cargo and one carrying crew. By also flying privately crewed missions, which NASA has encouraged, long-term costs to the government decline and more flight reliability history is gained, benefiting both government and private missions.

Once operational Crew Dragon missions are underway for NASA, SpaceX will launch the private mission on a journey to circumnavigate the moon and return to Earth. Lift-off will be from Kennedy Space Center’s historic Pad 39A near Cape Canaveral – the same launch pad used by the Apollo program for its lunar missions. This presents an opportunity for humans to return to deep space for the first time in 45 years and they will travel faster and further into the Solar System than any before them.

Designed from the beginning to carry humans, the Dragon spacecraft already has a long flight heritage. These missions will build upon that heritage, extending it to deep space mission operations, an important milestone as we work towards our ultimate goal of transporting humans to Mars.

  • Vladislaw

    When did the Ford Development cycle for automobiles end?

  • JamesG

    Disagree. SX has some USED cores lying around but they aren’t going to use them for manned missions. This will produce a surplus of new cores for Crew Dragon and Moon Dragon, but we don’t know what the reflight rate is going to be. FH hasn’t even flown yet. And all the pads to really start working the launch manifest down still won’t be online by then.

    I mean, I’m sure Elon and Co. think they can do it, and okay boss, hold on for the ride… but… he really is spreading the company really thin. Ya know?

  • delphinus100

    Thus the assertion ‘ more like the known and fairly consistent risks of mountain climbing..’

    The point you’re missing is, the analogy to a combat mission is a false one.

  • Emmet Ford

    Your argument has merit. The problem is that SLS is so expensive as to preclude development of the ancillary systems needed to put it to good use. We have just signed up to run ISS through 2024, with a push toward 2028, a push supported by increasing commercial interest and investment.

    NASA should be pioneering artificial gravity. The should be developing new technologies. These activities would be an efficient and valuable allocation of their finite resources.

    They should not be attempting to compete with the market to build chemical rockets. Congress should not be mandating that science missions have to use their billion dollar plus boondoggle. They should not be ordering studies for billion dollar plus visits to ISS. This is larcenous behavior. So why are they doing it? Because they are desperate to manufacture an excuse for continued investment in SLS/Orion.

    It’s not just SpaceX anymore. It’s also Blue Origin. Their initial orbital vehicle will be fully reusable out of the gate and their progress is gradual but ferocious. Even ULA is putting money into their own rocket. We do not need cost plus rocket development anymore. If it serves a purpose, it’s not one mentioned in the NASA charter.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    I honestly believe the rich and powerful are more vulnerable to over optimism, buy into conspiracy theory, silly political theory, and overall are suckers. I give Elon as a perfect example. After 14 years of falling behind stated schedule, and delay after delay in every program on par with STS, he still makes announcements of schedules his team can never meet. Don’t get me wrong, I love everything he and they have done. But I’m sorry, there’s a aspect of PT Barnum in him, and it seems to me he believes in his own statements. So I’m sorry, I don’t think the rich and powerful are the apex of human leadership.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Fine … how about this … When they stop spending a good chunk of very year in a technical shut down due to a failure of the vehicle that’s so severe they cannot operate it. Perhaps another metric might be when they actually can meet a years promised launch schedule.

  • Andrew_M_Swallow

    If NASA can persuade the electronics manufactures to make radhard electronics for a sufficiently low price then SpaceX, the DOD and cubesat makers may use them.

    Imagine a radhard Raspberry Pi or rival.

  • Aerospike

    Funny, a self proclaimed “Kapitalist”, who fails to recognise the power of money.

  • Robert Gishubl

    Well said. NASA to do the new and innovative to advance technology. They should have been working on a re-usable booster and payloads for deep space not the return of 60s technology rocket.

  • Robert Gishubl

    Also the original commercial cargo plan included an option for crew but Congress never funded it, if it had been comercial crew would be flying by now.

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    It can harm too. You can latch up a transistor cause thermal over stress on the circuit. Seen it with my own eyes.

  • Jeff2Space

    NASA did work on a “re-usable booster”, it was called X-33 and was to be a fore-runner (X-vehicle) for a reusable single stage to orbit launch vehicle. The project failed miserably. After its failure, NASA declared publicly that the technology did not exist for reusable single stage to orbit launch vehicles. It came as no surprise to me that SLS has turned into a completely expendable monstrosity. The “to big to fail” mentality of NASA manned spaceflight management has tolerated little in the way of innovation on SLS/Orion.

  • Arthur Hamilton

    Musk isn’t competing against NASA. Musk has his own agenda, which is Mars. However, since he has the capability he can sell to private customers if he so desires. SLS/Orion isn’t going away. So, you and everyone else just might as well accept it.

  • Arthur Hamilton

    FH will complement the capabilities of the SLS.

  • windbourne

    in fact, NASA shoulw no LONGER develop the SLS. If the owners want to do so, then let them. But, 70 tonnes is enough for getting started to the moon.

  • windbourne

    interesting. thanx.

  • Jeff2Space

    ” I don’t think society would accept that risk if we only used our cars to go to Yosemite.”

    I respectfully disagree. Look at how many people die each year climbing Mt. Everest, and the demand never diminishes. The demand is so high, sometimes there are “traffic jams” of people at key points on the mountain. Also, this is not an inexpensive thing to do. So, I’d argue that the public is actually quite accepting of rich people taking what are clearly life threatening risks with their own lives. I don’t see how a Dragon 2 flight around the moon and back would be any different.

  • Jeff2Space

    Your statement is false on the face of it. For the two people who will fly, it is worth the price. NASA has to apply slightly different reasoning for EM-1 since it will be the very first flight of both SLS and a “complete” Orion (except for life support equipment, which won’t be present if the mission is unmanned)

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    I think that’s a good argument, however those trips follow a very scripted sequence of events and use established (TESTED) infrastructure in the form of camps, trails, and the ability to read the weather. Again, I’m not saying this should not be done, my main argument is somewhat in the form of a question. Namely if they are going to fly to the Moon next year how much testing can they really get in? It sounds like a reckless hack of a expedition. Falcon is not on the verge of dying. It’s on the verge of becoming an operational semi-reusable space booster that’s as re-usable and can operate on par with the 1970’s specifications of the Space Shuttle. It’s going to be an excellent system. And Dragon is going to become a capable Cis-Earth and Cis-Lunar spacecraft. I’m not even saying wait for all that to happen before you do this. Is it insane to ask for a Zond style test with nobody onboard, then maybe a manned mission afterwards? Is the concept so unstable that it can’t wait for that? If so, what does that say about the robust nature of the program? It makes me think that the leadership in charge of this system are reckless. Which is fine, it’s their system. But I do ask you as a space analyst to look beyond the spectacle and the utter coolness and see this for what it is. For the record, when they do this flight, I’ll throw a party, or go to one, and for what it’s worth, they’ll have my complete spiritual support and hope for success. But that means nothing for the performance of a brand new largely untested system with amateurs onboard.

  • Arthur Hamilton

    Fortunately, the government is in this “my rocket is bigger than your rocket and I can get to the moon

  • Emmet Ford

    Musk needs NASA on board to bring his Mars plans to fruition. SLS/Orion is a primary impediment. Falcon Heavy, if it succeeds, will kill SLS/Orion. If they blow up LC-39a then maybe not.

  • windbourne

    And that is good, how?

  • Jeff2Space

    Actually a more than the current SLS/Orion plan and a lot more if NASA flies a crew on EM-1.

    Falcon Heavy is planned on flying a test flight, followed by a DOD contracted flight, and likely a few commercial satellite launches before flying a manned Dragon 2 on top.

    Similarly, Dragon V2 will fly a couple of unmanned test flights to ISS followed by a manned test flight to ISS and possibly one or more manned “commercial crew” missions to ISS before Dragon V2 is used to fly around the moon.

    So if you look at the details closely, it looks more like SpaceX is being far more conservative and cautious with their manned lunar flyby than NASA.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    I’m well aware of that. I was stupefied when NASA made that proposal. I think that portion of NASA is more insane than Space X in this regard. In fact while reading the proposal I was joking with a friend, watch this, they’ll want to send it manned in some sad attempt to re-create Apollo-8. Then …. There it was … My assessment with SLS/Orion to the Moon for the first launch is it’s a more desperate attempt to to save the program than the Buran’s threat from Gorbachev of “Fly or die”, then, die anyway.

    So we are in agreement there. Yes Space X will have more flight heritage than SLS/Orion, lot’s more. However deep space is different than LEO. I hope there’s a lot of cross talk between the GEO and interplanetary probe folks with Space X. I know there can be at NASA, and probably is. That said, it’s been almost my entire life time since we’ve taken the dip with people, and I still think a Zond style dry run is in order.

  • Jeff2Space

    It wouldn’t hurt to have an unmanned lunar flyby mission with Dragon V2 first. That would verify things like communications, tracking, reentry, and etc.

  • Arthur Hamilton

    Historical trends like these…”My battleship is bigger that yours.” 1500 years ago it was ‘my castle is bigger than yours.’ Japan had the two biggest battleships of WWII and they proved ineffective in the big scheme of things.

  • Arthur Hamilton

    You have your facts backwards concerning the killing of SLS/Orion. By law, SLS/Orion can’t be killed. Falcon Heavy is not powerful enough to replace SLS verbatim. The flexible path, of which was signed into law called for a government rocket/capsule for government financed purposes. Second it called for commercial companies to develop vehicles so that NASA could contract them for transportation to the ISS. However, the commercial companies are free to use their vehicles as they see fit, outside of the NASA contract, because they (commercial companies) own them.

  • Arthur Hamilton

    The NASA managers have no choice, if they want to keep their job.

  • Kapitalist

    Luna 3 made one single flyby of the Moon, it didn’t enter Lunar orbit AFAIK. It was a great accomplishment in 1959! A triumph, a great exploration. I hope those who were on the Luna 3 program back then are still employed today, so that the experience gained from it is still available and up to date…

  • Kapitalist

    Jeff Bezos obviously does not understand the value of money (in politics). He bought WaPo but still lost the election. He bet on the wrong horse but still he continues his losing propagandafight, making things even worse for BO.

  • Vladislaw

    Then you are clueless about why he bought the newspaper.

  • Vladislaw

    “Why doesn’t Amazon sell only goods that are Made In America?”

    Why doesn’t the President sell goods that are made in America?

    http://abcnews.go.com/Business/donald-trump-sells-chinese-goods-accusing-china-stealing/story?id=31826791

  • publiusr

    SLS is part of infrastructure–and keeps hydrogen infrastructure going. Better shroud diameter.

    I as a taxpayer support funding SLS for those reasons alone.

  • publiusr

    I don’t think ITS will fly:
    https://www.reddit.com/r/spacex/comments/5ul1du/remains_of_the_its_composite_tank_in_anacortes_wa/

    Looks like it separated right along the seam.

    I am going to interpret this as being a bad result for the test, since it failed in longitudinal stress, rather than hoop stress. A hoop stress failure will typically indicate that the vessel was efficiently designed, since longitudinal stresses are usually lower than hoop stresses. This is applicable to metallic pressure vessels, which is what my experience is in. It is also possible it was intended to fail along the seam, but usually, a good seam/weld will be designed to be a little stronger than the bulk material.

    BFR will only fly if it is Sea Dragon. I want steel–not composites myself.

  • duheagle

    What little can be discerned from the pile of debris on the dock in the published pictures makes it seem that the test article ITS propellant tank “separated” into quite a few pieces. Where it broke first is hardly obvious. The commenter on that thread that you quote is pretty much talking out his arse.

    You are, I hope, aware that pressure testing the test article tank to destruction was the intended outcome? Tests to destruction are done all the time in aerospace. The FAA requires that aircraft manufacturers, for example, need to flex the wings of new designs up and down until they break off the fuselage. That doesn’t make the production versions of the aircraft unsafe to fly.

    If you’ll only fly on an all-steel Sea Dragon, you’re going to be waiting a very long time for a ride. I suspect the future of SpaceX will not depend critically on the lack of your custom.

  • duheagle

    Suspect by who? You? Similar redundancy works fine to improve reliability of RAID disk arrays here on Earth and to render Falcon 1st stages fault-tolerant. As a strategy to mitigate radiation risk it’s thoroughly in the engineering mainstream.

  • duheagle

    A Falcon put a payload out about a million miles orbiting the Earth-Sun L1 point last year. The Falcon in question wasn’t even a then-current model. I’m sure the FH can dodge the nastiest parts of the Van Allen Belts the same way the Apollos did. As for the Dragon 2’s heat shield, the copious experience SpaceX has accumulated with the Cargo Dragon’s shields make that pretty much a non-issue. Even Cargo Dragons were engineered from the get-go to handle lunar return velocity.

  • publiusr

    The commenter on that thread that you quote is pretty much talking out his arse.

    He may or may not have been. If it was the seam–well, there’s always a another test with a better article. The UAE wants on Mars. Maybe Musk can get money from them for Sea Dragon. I would like to see Truax’s dream live in my lifetime.

  • duheagle

    You and some others here might find this instructive.

  • Paul451

    since it failed in longitudinal stress, rather than hoop stress.

    Based on the pictures, it failed on lap join, not the composite itself. That’s a side effect of the construction of the test article (simple half-moulds to speed and simplify production).

    Production units wouldn’t have the same lap join, they’d be continuously overwrapped. But building a full size overwrap machine before you have your final design is costly and pointless.

  • Paul451

    Who was the first person to die in early airplane development?

    Lt. Thomas Selfridge. 1908, Fort Myers, Virginia. A full five years after the first flight of the Wright Flyer.

    (Assuming we’re excluding idiots who strapped wings to their arms and jumped, flapping, off of bridges, but talking about actual aircraft.)

  • Paul451

    Belated aside:

    But when you look into it, the first years resulted in surprisingly few deaths. And those deaths were generally pretty well investigated, treated very seriously.

    Even aviation had few deaths early on (if you exclude clueless idiots who basically committed suicide). The first recorded genuine aviation death occurred five years after the first Wright Bros flight. Delayed the US Army’s adoption of aircraft, and resulted in the introduction of helmets for military pilots.

    (The first car deaths resulted in shared-road laws. Speed limits and the notorious man-with-a-red-flag laws.)

    It didn’t take much to poison an early technology’s reputation.

  • ReSpaceAge

    Never thought of Otto as an idiot.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otto_Lilienthal

  • publiusr

    Production units wouldn’t have the same lap join,
    Whew–that’s good to know.