SpaceX prepares to make history with first fully civilian crew in Earth orbit

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The latest in a recent line of space-obsessed billionaires was scheduled to take off on Wednesday with three less wealthy private citizens aboard a SpaceX rocket, seeking to become the first fully civilian crew launched into Earth orbit.

The quartet of amateur space travelers, led by American founder and CEO of e-commerce company Shift4 Payments Inc, Jared Isaacman, was scheduled to take off at 8 p.m. EDT (0000 GMT) from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. Florida.

SpaceX’s senior director of manned spaceflight Benji Reed told reporters at Cape Tuesday that “everything looked great” after a final “static” test of the rocket engines Monday morning.

“Right now, the weather is improving” for an on-time launch, he said.

The flight, with no professional astronauts accompanying SpaceX paying customers, is expected to last about three days from takeoff to landing in the Atlantic.

They will fly aboard a shiny white SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, dubbed Resilience, perched atop one of the company’s reusable Falcon 9 rockets and fitted with a special observation dome in place of the usual docking hatch.

Isaacman, 38, the benefactor of the trip, has disbursed an undisclosed, but presumably considerable sum to billionaire and SpaceX owner Elon Musk to send to himself and his three crewmates. Time magazine has set the ticket price for all four seats at $ 200 million.

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

It marks the debut flight of Musk’s new orbital tourism business, and a leap ahead of competitors who also offer rocket rides to wealthy customers willing to pay a small fortune for the joy and bragging rights of space flight.

Inspiration4 points to an orbital altitude of 360 miles (575 km) above Earth, higher than the International Space Station or the Hubble Space Telescope. At that altitude, the Crew Dragon will circle the world once every 90 minutes at a speed of about 17,000 miles per hour (27,360 kph), or about 22 times the speed of sound.

Jump ahead of your rivals

Rival companies Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin launched their own private astronaut services this summer, with their respective founding executives, billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos, each taking part in the trip.

But those suborbital flights, which lasted a few minutes, were short jumps compared to Inspiration4’s spaceflight profile.

SpaceX already ranks as the most established player in the growing constellation of commercial rocket companies, having launched numerous payloads and astronauts to NASA’s International Space Station. Two of his Dragon capsules are already docked there.

Despite some largely honorary titles, the Inspiration4 crew will have no role to play in the flight of the spacecraft, which will be operated by ground flight crews and onboard guidance systems, although two crew members They are licensed pilots. Isaacman, who is qualified to fly commercial and military aircraft, has assumed the role of “commander” of the mission, while the geoscientist

Sian Proctor, 51, a former NASA astronaut candidate, has been appointed as the mission’s “pilot.”

The crew is rounded out by “Medical Director” Hayley Arceneaux, 29, a bone cancer survivor who became a St. Jude Physician Assistant and Mission “Specialist” Chris Sembroski, 42, an Air Force veteran from USA and Aerospace Data Engineer.

The four crew members have spent five months in rigorous preparations, including altitude training, centrifugation (G-force), microgravity and simulator training, emergency drills, classroom work and medical exams.

Inspiration4 officials emphasize that the mission is more than just a ride.

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

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

“The Inspiration4 team is eager to use our mission to help create a better future for those who will be launching in the years and decades to come,” Isaacman said in a statement.


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