SpaceX: Private tourist will fly in BFR around moon

Elon Musk's company to announce who it will be Monday

By Associated Press, Emilee Speck - Digital journalist

SpaceX has signed the world’s first private passenger to fly around the Moon aboard our BFR launch vehicle. The company will annouce who it is on Monday, September 17. (Image: SpaceX)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - SpaceX says it has signed the first private moon traveler.

The big reveal on who it is -- and when the flight to the moon will be -- will be announced Monday at 9 p.m. Eastern.

It's not the same mission plan SpaceX founder Elon Musk outlined last year. The original plan called for two paying passengers to fly around the moon this year, using a Falcon Heavy rocket and a Dragon crew capsule.

The new strategy is to still fly around the moon, but using an even bigger SpaceX rocket, known as the Big Falcon Rocket, or BFR. The rocket is still in development and has its own, dedicated passenger ship, and now, it would seem, there will be only one person aboard.

"SpaceX has signed the world’s first private passenger to fly around the Moon aboard our BFR launch vehicle - an important step toward enabling access for everyday people who dream of traveling to space," reads a statement on the company's website.

SpaceX's Big Falcon Rocket will be built in Los Angeles, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti said Monday.

Musk said earlier this year that SpaceX will begin testing just the spaceship portion of the BFR in 2019, and that the full system could be ready for deep space travel by 2022.

However, Musk is known for his optimistic timelines.

SpaceX COO Gwynne Shotwell said during a TED Talk in April that BFR would launch "within a decade."

The BFR will be manufactured at a facility near the Los Angeles Harbor on 19 acres of port land SpaceX has leased. Due to its size, the rocket will require an oceangoing barge to travel to launch sites.

Musk said the BFR is designed for trips to Mars and beyond.

The SpaceX CEO will make Monday's announcement from SpaceX headquarters in California, which  will be livestreamed.

"Find out who’s flying and why," SpaceX said in a tweet.

The company and Musk offered few hints about who the private passenger could be. On Twitter, Musk tweeted an emoji of the Japanese flag in response to the upcoming announcement, which could be a clue to the nationality of the space tourist.

This story will be updated.

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