Ask any astronaut to name their favorite place on board the International Space Station (ISS), and they’ll likely name the cupola, a windowed module designed for gazing at the Earth. It’s the best place to get a good look at Earth and the cosmos — that is, until now. SpaceX has announced the addition of its own cupola to its Crew Dragon capsule, which will provide astronauts with unparalleled 360-degree views.
While the ISS cupola comprises several flat windows arranged in a circle, they’re divided by metal supports. SpaceX’s cupola, on the other hand, is a singular glass dome that’ll offer uninterrupted views in all directions. In a tweet, SpaceX founder Elon Musk said it’s “probably [the] most ‘in space’ you could possibly feel by being in a glass dome.”
The new feature was revealed in conjunction with the announcement of the full Inspiration4 crew, who will join the first all-civilian spaceflight aboard a chartered SpaceX Crew Dragon in September. Flying alongside the mission’s mastermind and sponsor, Jared Isaacman, will be “analog astronaut” Dr. Sian Proctor, Lockheed Martin data engineer Chris Sembroski, and physician assistant Hayley Arceneaux, who is serving as a St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital ambassador. (The mission is also a charity event to fundraise for the cancer research nonprofit.)
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon cupola was specifically designed with this mission in mind — it will replace the standard ISS docking adaptor that’s typically found at the nose of the capsule, as the mission will not fly to the ISS.
While SpaceX is not focusing on tourism as one of its main objectives, it’s currently the only private spaceflight company that has successfully launched humans into space, carrying six astronauts to the ISS in 2020. If Inspiration4 flies later this year, it will become the company’s first tourist mission, which will then potentially be followed by the DearMoon tourist spaceflight in 2023.