Boeing ‘space taxi’ has a spot for paying tourists from 2017

Space tourists hold onto your hats. Boeing has announced that its “space taxi” has a spot reserved for paying tourists to take a seat alongside astronauts heading to the International Space Station from 2017.

Related: NASA awards suborbital delivery contracts to Virgin Galactic and three other firms

The US-first is part of a $4.2 billion [£2.5 billion] five-year contract letting Boeing sell spots in the spacecraft to tourists and it plans to price journeys at competitive levels similar to those charged by Russia’s space agency to fly tourists to the same point.

"We hope ... to start working with the ISS program to make it happen," Boeing commercial crew programme manager John Mulholland told Reuters. "We think it would be important to help spur this industry."

The contract is a fixed price one backed by the government, however, Boeing is responsible for any cost overruns as well as delays to the programme.

Boeing isn’t the only company planning to send tourists into space either. Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, won a NASA contract of its own and plans to create and fly a space taxi for $2.6 billion [£1.6 billion] – significantly less than Boeing’s estimated $4.2 billion [£2.5 billion] cost.

The reason for the fluctuation in price is the rockets being used by the respective projects. SpaceX’s Dragon capsule flies on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 boosters that cost $61 million [£37.2 million] whereas Boeing’s CST-100 uses Atlas 5 rockets that are powered by Russian engines and cost $150 million [£91.5 million] a piece.

Commercial flights are currently offered aboard Russian Soyuz capsules by US-based Space Adventures, which brokers travel for any passengers willing to foot the bill for the flight.

British singer Sarah Brightman is set to become the eighth such passenger by forking out some $52 million [£31.7 million] for a 10-day visit to the International Space Station, with training set to get underway in January 2015.

Image Credit: Reuters