The visitors' tickets to the International Space Station include access to all parts of the facility except the Russian portion, and covers all meals and accommodations, for a 9 to 10-day stay.

Each visitor has a full slate of experiments to conduct during their time in the station.
Each visitor has a full slate of experiments to conduct during their time in the station. (AP)

SpaceX has launched three rich businessmen and their astronaut escort to the International Space Station for more than a week’s stay, as NASA joins Russia in hosting guests at the world’s most expensive tourist destination.

Friday’s launch is the second private charter for Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which took a billionaire and his guests on a three-day orbit ride last year.

Arriving at the space station Saturday will be an American, Canadian and Israeli who run investment, real estate and other companies. They’re paying $55 million apiece for the rocket ride and accommodations, all meals included. 

The private Axiom Space company arranged the visit with NASA for its three paying customers: Larry Connor of Dayton, Ohio, who runs the Connor Group; Mark Pathy, founder and CEO of Montreal’s Mavrik Corp.; and Israel’s Eytan Stibbe, a founding partner of Vital Capital.

Russia has been hosting tourists at the space station – and before that the Mir station – for decades.

NASA is finally getting into the act, after years of opposing space station visitors.

The visitors' tickets include access to all but the Russian portion of the space station – they’ll need permission from the three cosmonauts on board.

READ MORE: US-Russia tensions over Ukraine orbit into space

Not just space tourists?

SpaceX and NASA have been upfront with them about the risks of spaceflight, said chaperone and former NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, who spent seven months at the space station 15 years ago.

“There’s no fuzz, I think, on what the dangers are or what the bad days could look like,” Lopez-Alegria said before the flight.

Each visitor has a full slate of experiments to conduct during their nine to 10 days there, one reason they don’t like to be called space tourists.

“They’re not up there to paste their nose on the window,” said Axiom’s co-founder and president, Michael Suffredini, a former NASA space station program manager.

The three businessmen are the latest to take advantage of the opening of space to those with deep pockets. Jeff Bezos’ rocket company Blue Origin is taking customers on 10-minute rides to the edge of space, while Virgin Galactic expects to start flying customers on its rocket ship later this year.

Axiom is targeting next year for its second private flight to the space station. More customer trips will follow, with Axiom adding its own rooms to the orbiting complex beginning in 2024.

READ MORE: In a first, SpaceX rocket blasts off into space with all-civilian crew

Source: AP