SpaceX to Fly Passengers On Private Trip Around the Moon in 2018 – Space.com


Update for 4:38 p.m. EST: SpaceX will fly two private citizens on a passenger flight around the moon in 2018 using a Dragon 2 spacecraft and the massive new Falcon Heavy rocket, the company’s founder Elon Musk announced today (Feb. 27).


The two private citizens — who have not been named — approached SpaceX about the trip, according to a statement from the company. The individuals will be the only crew members on board what is expected to be about a week-long trip around the moon, according to Musk, who spoke with reporters during a phone conference today. The names of the two individuals will be announced later pending the result of initial health and fitness tests, the statement said.


The moon flight is scheduled to take place after SpaceX plans to fly NASA astronauts to the International Space Station as part of the Commercial Crew Program. Here’s a look at SpaceX’s Dragon crew capsules, Falcon Heavy rockets and more as we complete our main story:


Editor’s note: This story will be updated with more details from Elon Musk’s teleconference with reporters today.


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Our morning preview:


Billionaire tech entrepreneur Elon Musk says his private spaceflight company SpaceX will make an announcement Monday (Feb. 27), but exactly what will be announced is a mystery. 


In a Twitter post last night, Musk offered a tantalizing hint of something new coming from SpaceX: “SpaceX announcement tomorrow at 1 p.m. PST,” Musk wrote on Twitter. That pegs the reveal for 4 p.m. EST (2100 GMT) if, like Space.com here, you’re in an Eastern time zone. 


An inquiry to SpaceX representatives last night yielded little more than a tantalizing “stay tuned” response. So we’re on pins and needles waiting to hear what the private spaceflight company will be unveiling today. Here are some possibilities that come to mind:


First Crew Dragon test flight date (unpiloted): Earlier this month, ahead of SpaceX’s first Dragon launch from NASA’s Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Floriday, company president Gwynne Shotwell hinted that the company was aiming for the first uncrewed launched of its Crew Dragon spacecraft near the end of the year. Could the date be set?


Dragon spacesuits: NASA has tapped SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft to fly American astronauts to and from the International Space Station, but SpaceX has not yet unveiled its spacesuit design for the seven-person space capsule. Boeing, which will also fly astronauts for NASA, unveiled its Boeing Blue spacesuit last month. During her talk with reporters at Launch Pad 39A this month, Shotwell hinted that SpaceX spacesuits would be pretty cool to see. 


Dragon final interor design: We do know that NASA astronauts have been practicing with SpaceX’s Dragon flight controls setup because NASA has posted a series of photos of the session.  


Falcon Heavy test flight date: The Falcon Heavy, SpaceX’s new heavy-lift rocket, which looks like three Falcon 9 boosters strapped together, is scheduled for a debut test flight sometime this year. Could it be ready to announce a target date. 


Reusable rocket announcement: SpaceX has pioneered commercial reusable rocket technology and is expected to launch the first reused Falcon 9 rocket booster in March during a commercial satellite launch. Could something else be in the works?


New launch site: SpaceX currently has two launch sites in Florida (NASA’s Launch Pad 39A and a pad under repair at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station); as well as a pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. But the company has also been hard at work building its own launch site in Brownsville, Texas. Is it time for an update on that new private spaceport?


Satellite fleet: SpaceX is planning to build a constellation of 4,000 broadband satellites in a factory in Seattle. Could that be what today’s about?


And finally…


Something about Mars: SpaceX and Mars go together like peanut butter and jelly. Musk has often said that he wants to make a colony on Mars possible to make humanity a two-planet species. Last year, he unveiled SpaceX’s concept for an Interplanetary Transport System that would use a fleet of giant reusable spacecraft to ferry colonists to Mars hundreds at a time. In the near term, SpaceX is also drawing up plans to send an uncrewed Dragon capsule to Mars in the next few years. Could a new Red Planet reveal come today? 


Those are just some of the possibilities that Elon Musk and SpaceX could unveil today. What are YOU hoping to hear from SpaceX at 4 p.m. EST (2100 GMT)? Let us know in the comments below. 


Email Tariq Malik at tmalik@space.com or follow him @tariqjmalik and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.

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