SpaceX launches 1st all-civilian crew into Orbit

Four private citizens successfully launched a SpaceX rocket ship, aiming to become the first crew without professional astronauts to make it to Earth’s orbit.

A SpaceX rocket blasted off from Florida on Wednesday, carrying a billionaire e-commerce executive and three less-wealthy private citizens he chose to join him in the first all-civilian crew ever launched on a flight to Earth orbit.

The quartet of amateur space travelers is led by the American founder of Shift4 Payments Inc, Jared Isaacman. It left the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., just after 8 p.m. E.T. A SpaceX webcast of the launch showed Isaacman, 38, and his crewmates — Sian Proctor, 51, Hayley Arceneaux, 29, and Chris Sembroski, 42. They are strapped into the pressurized cabin of their gleaming white Crew Dragon capsule, entitled Resilience, carrying their helmeted black-and-white flight suits.

The capsule shouted into the Florida sky, roosted atop one of the company’s reusable two-stage Falcon 9 rockets, and was provided with a unique observation dome in place of its natural docking hatch. On Wednesday, the Inspiration4 civilian crew, aboard a Crew Dragon capsule and SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, launches from Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.. (Thom Baur/Reuters)

With no expert astronauts accompanying SpaceX’s paying customers, the flight is supposed to last about three days, from liftoff to splashdown in the Atlantic. Instead, it marked SpaceX’s debut flight, Elon Musk’s latest orbital tourism market, and a leap ahead of rivals. Likewise, offering rides on rocket ships to consumers willing to pay a tiny fortune for the enthusiasm — and bragging rights — of space cruising.

Isaacman had forked over an undisclosed — but presumably hefty — amount to fellow billionaire and SpaceX proprietor Elon Musk to give himself and his three crewmates aloft. Time magazine has set the ticket price for all four seats at $200 million. U.S. Isaacman considered the so-called Inspiration4 mission to raise awareness and support for one of his favorite causes, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a leading pediatric cancer center in Memphis, Tenn.

Inspiration4 strives for an orbital elevation of 575 kilometers over Earth, more important than the International Space Station or Hubble Space Telescope. At that altitude, the Crew Dragon will circle the globe once every 90 minutes at a speed of some 27,360 km/h, or roughly 22 times the speed of sound.

SpaceX already rates as the most well-established performer in the burgeoning constellation of profitable rocket ventures, having launched various cargo payloads and spacemen to the International Space Station for NASA. In addition, two of its Dragon spacecraft are anchored there previously.

Despite some largely honorary titles, the Inspiration4 crew will have no part to fly the spacecraft, which will be operated by ground-based flight teams and onboard guidance systems, even though two crew members are licensed pilots.

Isaacman, rated to fly commercial and military jets, has assumed the mission “commander.” In contradiction, geoscientist Sian Proctor, 51, a former NASA astronaut candidate, has been appointed as the mission sortie “pilot.”

Spinning out the crew are “chief medical officer” Hayley Arceneaux, 29, a bone cancer survivor became St. Jude physicians’ assistant, and mission “specialist” Chris Sembroski, 42, a U.S. Air Force veteran and aerospace data engineer.

The four crewmates have been given five months in meticulous preparations, including altitude fitness, centrifuge (G-force), microgravity and simulator training, emergency drills, classroom work, and medical exams. In addition, the crew will conduct a series of medical trials in orbit with “potential applications for human well-being on Earth and during future space aviation. Biomedical data and biological specimens, including ultrasound scans, will also be obtained from crew members before, throughout, and after the flight. The crew of Inspiration4 is excited to use our mission to assist in building a better future for those who will begin in the years and decades to come.

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