Space – SpaceX cleared for historic civilian launch next week
SpaceX is set to launch its first-ever all-civilian crew to space next week on a three-day journey around the Earth that will benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Four private citizens will be tucked inside the Crew Dragon spacecraft when it’s launched into space by Falcon 9 on Sept. 15 as part of the mission dubbed Inspiration4.
“#Inspiration4 and @SpaceX have completed our flight readiness review and remain on track for launch!” Inspiration4 tweeted Friday.
The blastoff will take place at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida sometime within a five-hour window to be determined three days before the launch, based on weather conditions.
The Dragon capsule is aiming for an altitude of 335 miles — about 75 miles higher than the International Space Station and on a level with the Hubble Space Telescope.
The soon-to-be-astronauts — Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Chris Sembroski and Dr. Sian Proctor — are expected to arrive in the Sunshine State on Thursday to begin flight preparations following months of intense training since the team was announced in March.
Their preparation has involved “centrifuge training, Dragon simulations, observations of other SpaceX launch operations, Zero-G plane training, altitude training and additional classroom, simulation and medical testing,” Inspiration4 said in a press release.
The mission will be commanded by Isaacman, 38, the founder and CEO of credit card processing company Shift4 Payments and an accomplished jet pilot. Isaacman has not revealed how much he is paying for the flight but has donated $100 million to St. Jude’s.
He has an estimated net worth of $2.6 billion, according to Fintech Zoom.
Isaacman donated two of the seats on the mission, reserving one for “a St. Jude ambassador with direct ties to the mission.”
In March, he announced his crew, including Arceneaux, 29, who battled bone cancer as a child at St. Jude’s and was hired by the the hospital last spring. She will serve as the crew’s medical officer. The mission will make her the youngest American in space — beating NASA record-holder Sally Ride by over two years.
“My battle with cancer really prepared me for space travel,” Arceneaux told the Associated Press in February. “It made me tough, and then also I think it really taught me to expect the unexpected and go along for the ride.”
Proctor, 51, is a community college educator in Tempe, Arizona. She nabbed her ticket to space by winning a contest held by Isaacman’s Shift4Shop eCommerce platform that sought inspirational entrepreneurs worthy of being “elevated to the stars.” Proctor is an analog astronaut whose father worked at the NASA tracking station during the Apollo missions.
The second of Isaacman’s donated seats went to Sembroski, 41, a former Air Force missileman from Everett, Washington.
Sembroski’s friend initially won the sweepstakes that raked in more than 72,000 donations totaling $13 million to St. Jude’s, according to Space.com. But Sembroski was tapped to replace his pal, who declined to fly for personal reasons.
Both the Dragon crew capsule and the reusable Falcon 9 rocket have flown before, according to Space.com. A backup launch date is set for Sept. 16.
The crew will orbit the Earth for three days before splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean.
“Inspiration4’s goal is to inspire humanity to support St. Jude here on earth while also seeing new possibilities for human spaceflight,” Isaacman said in March. “Each of these outstanding crew members embodies the best of humanity, and I am humbled to lead them on this historic and purposeful mission and the adventure of a lifetime.”
Last month, SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk, sent a shipment of ants, avocados and a human-sized robotic arm to the seven astronauts at the International Space Station.