A SpaceX spacecraft with four tourists on board launched according to schedule from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on the night from Wednesday to Thursday at 2:02 a.m. (Dutch time). It is the first time that a rocket with only civilians on board has taken off to space.

The rocket was in orbit in less than 15 minutes. The launch was scheduled between 2:02 a.m. and 7:02 a.m. (Dutch time), because the rocket is not en route to the International Space Station, a precise departure time was not necessary. At 2:02 a.m. conditions were good and the rocket took off.

The vessel is a maximum of 540 kilometers from Earth. The last time humans went this far was in 2009. After spending about three days in space, the crew members return to Earth. The craft then plunges, suspended from a parachute, into the Atlantic Ocean.

The company behind the space journey, SpaceX of billionaire Elon Musk, wants to sell such tourist flights to ordinary people who have a lot of money for an extraterrestrial experience.

The captain on board is 38-year-old billionaire Jared Isaacman, who pays for the flight. He is the founder of payment service Shift4. He took two people associated with a children’s hospital in the city of Memphis, assistant physician Hayley Arceneaux, 29, and donor Christopher Sembroski (42). The fourth crew member is Sian Proctor (51), a geology teacher who unsuccessfully tried to become an astronaut more than a decade ago.

Musk is in fierce competition with two other billionaires, Jeff Bezos (Amazon, Blue Origin) and Richard Branson (Virgin Galactic). They too have thrown themselves into space tourism.