Last year, Elon Musk announced that his company is flying a pair of paying tourists to the moon, but now, plans have changed.

SpaceX is delaying its commercial spaceflight program to mid-2019 or probably much longer. In an e-mail sent to the Wall Street Journal, SpaceX representative James Gleeson confirmed the postponement of the tourist flights but added that the company's program is still on.

"SpaceX is still planning to fly private individuals around the moon and there is growing interest from many customers," Gleeson said.

SpaceX has also projected a nearly 40 percent drop in the launches scheduled for 2018.

Paid Tourists

In February 2017, SpaceX announced that two private individuals approached the company for a trip around the moon. It was reported that the clients had already made a "significant deposit" for the mission, and the schedule was initially set in late 2018.

"We expect to conduct health and fitness tests, as well as begin initial training later this year. Other flight teams have also expressed strong interest and we expect more to follow," SpaceX said in a press release.

With the number of delays, particularly in the launch of the Falcon 9 rocket, critics said it is not surprising that SpaceX's stake on tourist spaceflights is also put on hold. The company did not provide details on this recent delay, but WSJ predicted it could be due to "technical and production challenges."

Delayed Rocket Launch

SpaceX's space missions have been halted by a series of operational delays. After several years of postponement, the Falcon 9 rocket finally took off for its first launch in January.

The Falcon Heavy rocket, which is the vehicle to be used to send people into space, took off only once. Meanwhile, the manned mission test for Dragon 2 capsule is yet to happen in December this year.

Charles Miller, a consultant to the WSJ and a space entrepreneur, said that SpaceX is investing on a bigger Falcon 9 rocket — its biggest and newest launcher — to accommodate a heavier thrust into bringing large and small satellites into the planet's orbits.

Although risks are inherent in any manned spaceflight, SpaceX bears much higher stake in taking tourist passengers, according to Miller. Not only that, such events could ruin NASA's trust and confidence toward SpaceX, but it could also prompt a congressional hearing that could compromise the reputation of the people behind the company.

ⓒ 2021 All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.