28 Feb 2017

SpaceX to fly tourists round the moon

12:08 pm on 28 February 2017

Private launch company SpaceX plans to fly two paying customers on a tourist trip around the moon.

A Falcon 9 rocket lifting off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, on January 14, 2017

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket lifting off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, in January. Photo: AFP

The tourists have have already paid a significant deposit to go on the flight, which would use the Dragon 2 spaceship under development for NASA astronauts and the Falcon Heavy rocket due to launch its first test flight, the company said.

The launch of the first privately-funded tourist flight beyond the International Space Station is tentatively targeted for late 2018, said chief executive Elon Musk.

He declined to identify the customers or say how much they would pay to fly on the week-long mission, except to say that it was "nobody from Hollywood".

He also said the two prospective space tourists knew each other.

"We would expect to do more than one mission of this nature, he added. This should be incredibly exciting"

Health and fitness tests, and initial training, for the flight teams would begin later in the year.

Last year a rocket operated by SpaceX exploded on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral where it was being test-fired.

But the private launch company had a successful launch from California last month of its Falcon 9 rocket which was delivering 10 satellites into orbit for Iridium Communications Inc.

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