Japanese entrepreneur Daisuke 'Dice-K' Enomoto is officially confirmed to become the world's fourth space tourist later this year, Space Adventures announced today.
The Virginia-based company also confirmed that X Prize sponsor Anousheh Ansari will be Enomoto's official backup, putting her in line to become the world's first paying female space tourist.
Currently, the two are undergoing training together at the Gagarin Cosmonauts Training Center, also known as "Star City," said Space Adventures' president and CEO Eric Anderson.
"Their training is going great so far and they're both fantastic clients," Anderson told SPACE.com.
Enomoto is scheduled to join the 14th Expedition Crew which also includes NASA astronauts Michael Lopez-Alegria and Russian Cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin. The flight is tentatively scheduled for a September 15th launch, Anderson said.
In addition to Ansari, the backup crew named to support the Soyuz TMA-9 mission includes NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko. No date has been set yet for Ansari's flight.
Rumors had been circulating in Russian media reports since mid-March that Ansari would be the backup, but the official announcement was made only today.
"We just decided to delay the announcement until such time as the crew was officially named," Anderson said.
According to Anderson, Ansari first expressed interest in becoming Enomoto's backup a few months ago.
"Anousheh and I first discussed the idea of her becoming part of the backup crew last October," he said.
Ansari is perhaps best known for helping to provide the seed money for the Ansari X Prize spaceflight competition, which offered $10 million to the first team to build and launch a privately-funded, piloted spacecraft to suborbital space and back twice in two weeks. That contest was won by Burt Rutan's SpaceshipOne in June of 2004.
The Ansari family recently partnered with Space Adventures to develop the tourism company's Explorer spacecraft for suboribital flights from Singapore and the United Arab Emirates.
Space Adventures is the company responsible for brokering a series of flights to the International Space Station for high-paying entrepreneurs, beginning in 2001 with U.S. businessman Dennis Tito. South African entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth followed in 2002, with U.S. scientist and businessman Gregory Olsen launching in 2005. Each of those flights, like Enomoto's, carried a reported cost of about $20 million.
Like his predecessors, Enomoto will spend about one week aboard the ISS before returning to Earth. Space Adventures officials have also announced that former Microsoft software developer Charles Simonyi is also set to visit the ISS. Anderson said that it's also possible that Ansari will fly on a future mission even if Enomoto makes his flight.
"If and when Anousheh decides to fly on an orbital mission, we will be very proud to announce that," he said.