Inspiration4: SpaceX’s all-civilian mission launches to orbit

Inspiration4, run by tech billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX, has launched its first all-civilian mission to orbit on Thursday.

SpaceX’s charity-driven mission named Inspiration4 lifted off at 8:02 p.m. EDT Wednesday (5.30 am India time Thursday) aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

It is commanded by tech entrepreneur Jared Isaacman and joined by Medical Officer Haley Arceneaux, a physician assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and pediatric cancer survivor; Mission Specialist Chris Sembroski, an Air Force veteran and aerospace data engineer; and Mission Pilot Dr. Sian Proctor, a geoscientist, entrepreneur, and trained pilot.

“Liftoff of @Inspiration4X! Go Falcon 9! Go Dragon!,” SpaceX shared in a tweet.

“Congratulations, #Inspiration4! Proud to provide the launchpad from @NASAKennedy for the first spaceflight with an all-private crew. Today’s launch represents a significant milestone in the quest to make space for everybody,” added NASA in a tweet.

SpaceX is targeting a five-hour launch window.

The crew will orbit Earth aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule every 90 minutes along a customised flight path.

The three-day mission will target approximately a 575 km orbit, flying farther from Earth than any human spaceflight since the Hubble Space Telescope repair missions.

Upon conclusion of the three-day journey, Dragon and the Inspiration4 crew will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere for a soft water landing off the coast of Florida.

The Dragon has a dome window, inspired by the Cupola on the International Space Station, and will provide the crew with incredible views of Earth, according to the Inspiration4 team.

The Inspiration4 mission marks SpaceX’s latest private astronaut mission.

“The #Inspiration4 launch reminds us of what can be accomplished when we partner with private industry! A commercial capability to fly private missions is the culmination of NASA’s vision with @Commercial_Crew,” Bill Nelson, NASA Administrator tweeted.

CEO Musk visited the crew before launch.

“Thank you for visiting our #Inspiration4 crew before their departure to Launch Complex 39A,” Inspiration4 tweeted.

Inspiration4’s goal is to inspire humanity and raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

During their multi-day journey in orbit, the Inspiration4 crew will partake in a first-of-its-kind health research initiative to increase humanity’s knowledge on the impact of spaceflight on the human body.

Once in orbit, the crew will perform carefully selected research experiments on human health and performance, which will have potential applications for human health on Earth and during future spaceflights.

In addition, SpaceX, the Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) at Baylor College of Medicine and investigators at Weill Cornell Medicine will collect environmental and biomedical data and biological samples from Inspiration4’s four crew members before, during, and after this historic spaceflight.

Earlier in July, Virgin Galactic’s billionaire CEO Richard Branson flew to the edge of space with three employees, including one of Indian-origin, heralding a new space tourism era. His flight climbed nearly 86 kilometres above the Earth’s surface.

He was followed by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who flew beyond the Karman line — 100 kms above the ground and the internationally recognised boundary of space — onboard his company Blue Origin’s fully automated and reusable New Shepard rocket.

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