Space Exploration Technologies Corp. said Monday it will send four space tourists to orbit later this year on a mission to raise awareness for a children’s hospital.
SpaceX said the launch will take place “no earlier than the fourth quarter.” Jared Isaacman, founder and chief executive of Shift4 Payments Inc. FOUR, +4.35%, is paying for the flight and donating three seats aboard SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft to members of the general public, who will be announced in the weeks ahead, the company said. Isaacman, a trained pilot, will be the flight’s commander.
“When you’ve got a brand new mode of transportation, you have to have pioneers,” Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Inc. TSLA, +5.83%, told NBC News in an interview aired Monday night. “Things are expensive at first, and as you’re able to increase the launch rate, increase the production rate, refine the technology, it becomes less expensive and accessible to more people.”
Aspiring astronauts are being asked to either donate to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital or to launch an online store and share an “inspirational business story” on Twitter for a chance to win a seat.
Billionaire Isaacman didn’t say how much he’s paying for the flight, but said he’s pledging $100 million to St. Jude and hoping to raise an additional $100 million for the hospital.
“I appreciate this tremendous responsibility that comes with commanding this mission and I want to use this historic moment to inspire humanity while helping to end childhood cancer here on Earth,” Isaacman told NBC News.
A former NASA astronaut will also be on board, the Associated Press reported. The flight will travel across a low Earth orbit on a “multi-day journey,” SpaceX said.
SpaceX said the crew will receive commercial astronaut training, including mission simulations and emergency preparedness training.
The flight path “will be carefully monitored at every step” by SpaceX mission control and at the end of the mission the spacecraft will do a soft water landing off the coast of Florida, the company said.
Isaacman’s company, Shift4 Payments, had its initial public offering in June after delaying the IPO a few months because of the pandemic. The company handles payments for hotels, resorts, restaurants and other leisure-related businesses.