A crew of all-private citizens blasted off from Kennedy Space Center Friday morning bound for the International Space Station (ISS).
The milestone venture is the first-of-its kind mission involving the private sector of space travel.
“An absolutely picture perfect launch,” said SpaceX engineer Kate Tice during a live broadcast of the mission.
Three entrepreneurs spent $55 million each for their tickets to outer space aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, totaling $165 million.
The paying passengers are Larry Connor, the managing partner of an Ohio real estate group, Mark Pathy, the chief executive of a Canadian investment firm, and Eytan Stibbe, a businessman and former Israeli Air Force fighter pilot.
Michael Lopez-Alegria, a former NASA astronaut and Axiom vice president, served as their guide. Axiom is the Houston-based company that commissioned the flight with SpaceX.
The privatization of space tourism and travel is becoming more prominent, with Elon Musk’s SpaceX competing with Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic for wealthy passengers.
The astronauts are expected to reach the ISS on Saturday, where they will spend eight days on board before returning to Earth in SpaceX’s autonomous Dragon spacecraft.
Axiom is planning a series of privately funded missions to the space station, which was not possible before 2019, until NASA changed its policy to allow private citizens aboard.
Axiom is also in the process of building its own space station, which the company envisions to serve as an eventual replacement for the ISS.