Space Exploration Technologies Corp. announced Monday that four space tourists will be sent into orbit later this year to raise awareness for a children's hospital.
SpaceX said the launch would take place "in the fourth quarter at the earliest". Jared Isaacman, founder and managing director of Shift4 Payments Inc.
pays for the flight and donates three seats on board the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft to members of the public, which will be announced in the coming weeks. Isaacman, a trained pilot, will be in command of the flight.
"When you have a brand new means of transportation, you have to have pioneers," said Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Inc.
told NBC News in an interview that aired Monday night. "Things are expensive to begin with, and as you can increase the startup rate, increase the production rate, and refine the technology, it becomes cheaper and more accessible to more people."
Aspiring astronauts are asked to either donate to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital or to open an online shop and post an "Inspirational Business Story" on Twitter in order to win a seat.
Billionaire Isaacman didn't say how much he paid for the flight, but he pledged $ 100 million to St. Jude and hopes to raise another $ 100 million for the hospital.
"I appreciate the tremendous responsibility that comes with leading this mission and I want to use this historic moment to inspire humankind while also helping to end cancer in children here on earth," Isaacman told NBC News .
A former NASA astronaut will also be on board, the Associated Press reported. The flight will fly over low-earth orbit on a "multi-day journey," SpaceX said.
SpaceX says the crew will receive commercial astronaut training, including mission simulations and emergency preparedness training.
The trajectory is "carefully monitored at every step" by SpaceX mission control and at the end of the mission, the spacecraft will make a soft water landing off the coast of Florida, the company said.
Isaacman's company, Shift4 Payments, went public in June after delaying its IPO for a few months because of the pandemic. The company handles payments for hotels, resorts, restaurants, and other leisure businesses.