SpaceX is a short time away from launching its first all-civilian crew for a three-day ride in low Earth orbit.
The mission is set to lift off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Wednesday, September 15.
Shift4 Payments CEO Jared Isaacman, the commander of the Inspiration4 mission, secured the flight in a private deal with SpaceX. Isaacman said a big part of Inspiration4 is to raise the profile of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, and reach a $200 million funding goal for the facility.
The mission is notable on many levels. Besides becoming the first flight to head to orbit without a professional astronaut on board, it will also be the first space mission to include a bone cancer survivor, in this case, 29-year-old American Hayley Arceneaux. In addition, it’ll be the first SpaceX flight to include a Dragon spacecraft that doesn’t visit the International Space Station, and will also mark the first use of a Crew Dragon spacecraft with an all-glass observatory dome at its tip.
Besides enjoying the amazing views out of the dome, the crew will also carry out various health-related experiments in microgravity conditions during what promises to be an extraordinary voyage.
Speaking recently about the upcoming mission, Isaacman said the Inspiration4 crew is eager to use the experience “to help make a better future for those who will launch in the years and decades to come.”
He added: “In all of human history, fewer than 600 humans have reached space. We are proud that our flight will help influence all those who will travel after us and look forward to seeing how this mission will help shape the beginning of a new era for space exploration.”
Indeed, a successful flight will open the door to similar flights operated by SpaceX as part of a high-end space tourism service, with trips requiring months of intensive pre-launch training as well as pots of money.
How to watch
SpaceX has announced a five-hour launch window starting at 8:02 p.m. ET on Wednesday, September 15. The precise launch time will be largely determined by weather conditions in and around Kennedy Space Center.
You can watch the launch and early stages of the Inspiration4 mission via the video player embedded at the top of this page. SpaceX will also stream the same footage on its YouTube channel.
A third option is Netflix, which is showing highlights of the mission in a five-part docuseries throughout this month.
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