Inspiration4: SpaceX’s all-civilian mission set for imminent launch

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The all-civilian launch of SpaceX’s Inspiration4 craft is set to take place today, the latest in a line of billionaires taking high altitude aboard private craft.

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A quartet of amateur astronauts, led by Jared Isaacman, American founder and chief executive officer of e-commerce firm Shift 4, will leave the planet at midnight GMT from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

SpaceX’s senior director of human spaceflight, Benji Reid, has said the weather forecast “looked pretty good” after the last “steady” test-firing of the rocket engines on Monday morning.


The flight, which will take no professional astronauts with SpaceX’s paying customers, is expected to last about three days from liftoff to splashdown in the Atlantic.

They will fly aboard a gleaming white SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule called Resilience, which is mounted atop one of the company’s reusable Falcon 9 rockets and equipped with a special observation dome in place of the usual docking hatch .

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Isaacman has given fellow billionaire and SpaceX owner Elon Musk an undisclosed but potentially hefty sum to send himself and three of his crewmates aloft. Time magazine has priced the ticket for all four seats at $200 million.

The so-called Inspiration4 mission was conceived by Isaacman primarily to raise awareness and support for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a leading pediatric cancer center in Memphis, Tennessee.

It marks the first flight of Musk’s new orbital tourism business, and is a leap forward from competitors, offering rides on rocket ships to well-heeled customers, fueled by space-flight excitement and bragging rights. are willing to pay a small fortune for.

Inspiration 4 aims for an orbital altitude of 360 miles (575 km) above Earth, which is higher than the International Space Station or the Hubble Space Telescope. At that altitude, Crew Dragon will orbit about once every 90 minutes at a speed of about 17,000 mph (27,360 kph), or about 22 times the speed of sound.

Rival companies Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin inaugurated their own private-astronaut services this summer, with their respective founding executives, billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos, along for the ride.

But those suborbital flights, which lasted just a few minutes, were short hops compared to Inspiration 4’s spaceflight profile.

SpaceX already ranks as the most well-established player in a growing constellation of commercial rocket enterprises, having launched numerous cargo payloads and astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA. Its two Dragon capsules are already docked there.

Despite some largely honorary titles, the Inspiration4 crew would have no role in flying the spacecraft, which would be manned by ground-based flight teams and onboard guidance systems, even if two crew members were licensed. Be a pilot

Isaacman, who is rated for flying commercial and military jets, assumed the role of mission “commander”, while geoscientist Sean Proctor, a former NASA astronaut candidate, was designated as the mission “pilot”. has gone.

Rounding out the crew are “Chief Medical Officer” Hayley Arsinaux, a bone cancer survivor who became an assistant to St. Jude Physicians, and Mission “Specialist” Chris Sambrowski, a US Air Force veteran and aerospace data engineer.

The four crewmates have spent five months in rigorous preparation, including altitude fitness, centrifuge (G-force), microgravity and simulator training, emergency drills, class work and medical exams.

Inspiration4 executives emphasize that the mission is much more than a joyride.

Once in orbit, the crew will perform a series of medical experiments with “potential applications for human health on Earth and during future space flights,” the group said in media materials.

Biomedical data and biological samples, including ultrasound scans, will also be collected from crew members before, during and after the flight.

“The Inspire 4 crew is looking forward to using our mission to help create a better future for those that launch in the years and decades to come,” Isaacman said in a statement.

Because of the craft’s low-Earth orbit, it is likely that Inspire 4 will be visible to the naked eye as it makes its three-day journey around Earth – although astronomers will not be able to predict how long it will be visible. The mission has started.

Additional reporting by Reuters


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