SpaceX previews glass dome viewing bubble for civilian space flight

Three people chosen for the first civilian-crewed SpaceX mission, scheduled for September

A new view for crew on SpaceX. courtesy spaceX twitter
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Elon Musk's SpaceX venture revealed a toughened-glass viewing dome for one of its space vessels, the Crew Dragon, on Wednesday.

The new design feature will allow space voyagers to have a panoramic view, if an image released by the company is accurate.

It shows a photographer casually taking pictures from the viewing bubble.

What seems like science fiction is now one step closer to reality, at least for those brave enough to view the cosmos with nothing but toughened glass separating them from certain death.

On Tuesday, a college science professor and an aerospace data analyst were named to round out a four-member crew for a SpaceX launch into orbit planned for this year.

It is billed as the first all-civilian spaceflight in history.

The two latest citizen astronauts were introduced at a news briefing live-streamed from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida by SpaceX human spaceflight chief Benjamin Reed and billionaire entrepreneur Jared Isaacman, who conceived the mission in part as a charity drive.

Mr Isaacman, founder and chief executive of e-commerce company Shift4 Payments, will pay an unspecified but presumably exorbitant sum to fellow billionaire and SpaceX owner Elon Musk to fly himself and three others into orbit aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.

The flight, scheduled for no earlier than September 15, is expected to last three to four days from launch to splashdown.

"When this mission is complete, people are going to look at it and say this was the first time that everyday people could go to space," Mr Isaacman, 38, told reporters.

The mission, Inspiration4, is designed primarily to raise awareness and support for one of Mr Isaacman's favourite causes, St Jude Children's Research Hospital, a leading paediatric cancer centre. He has pledged $100 million personally to the institute.

Assuming the role of mission commander, Mr Isaacman in February designated St Jude physician's assistant Haley Arceneaux, 29, a bone cancer survivor and one-time patient at the Tennessee hospital, as his first crewmate.

Announced on Tuesday, Chris Sembroski, 41, a Seattle-area aerospace industry employee and US Air Force veteran, was selected through a sweepstakes that drew 72,000 applicants and raised $113 million in St Jude donations.

Sian Proctor, 51, a geoscience professor at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix, Arizona, and entrepreneur who was once a Nasa astronaut candidate, was chosen separately through an online business contest run by Shift4 Payments.

All four will undergo extensive training modelled after the curriculum Nasa astronauts use to prepare for SpaceX missions.

The Inspiration4 mission may mark a new era in space flight, but it is not the only all-civilian crewed rocket launch in the works.

British billionaire Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic enterprise is developing a spaceplane to carry paying customers on suborbital excursions.

SpaceX plans a separate launch, possibly next year, of a retired Nasa astronaut, a former Israeli fighter pilot and two other people in conjunction with Houston-based private space flight company Axiom Space.

Mr Musk also intends to fly Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa around the Moon in 2023. Fees charged for those flights will help to finance the development of Mr Musk's new, heavy-lift Starship rocket for missions to the Moon and Mars.

Inspiration4 is about more than a billionaire's joyride through space, organisers said, promising that the crew will conduct a number of science experiments during its brief voyage.