CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — For the first time in 60 years of human spaceflight, a rocket is poised to blast into orbit with no professional astronauts on board, only four tourists.
SpaceX's first private flight will be led by a 38-year-old entrepreneur who's bankrolling the entire trip. He's taking two sweepstakes winners with him on the three-day, round-the-world trip, along with a health care worker who survived childhood cancer.
They'll ride alone in a fully automated Dragon capsule, the same kind that SpaceX, which test fires rocket engines at a facility in McGregor, uses to send astronauts to and from the International Space Station for NASA. But the chartered flight won't be going there.
Set to launch Wednesday night from Kennedy Space Center, the two men and two women will soar 100 miles higher than the space station, aiming for an altitude of 357 miles, just above the current position of the Hubble Space Telescope.
By contrast, Virgin Galactic's Richard Branson and Blue Origin's Jeff Bezos briefly skimmed space during their short rides in July — Branson reached 53 miles while Bezos hit 66 miles up.
As the private flight's benefactor, Jared Isaacman, sees it: "This is the first step toward a world where everyday people can go and venture among the stars."