SpaceX made history as it launched the first all-civilian crew that will orbit Earth for three days. Inspiration4 is SpaceX’s first private space tour that deployed non-professional astronauts to space aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft. On Wednesday, September 15, a Falcon 9 rocket ignited the night sky at 8:02:56 p.m. Eastern Time as it lifted off from historic Launch Complex-39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, launching SpaceX’s fourth crew to space. Falcon 9 deployed the Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft to low Earth orbit carrying Shift4Payments founder Jared Isaacman, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Oncology Physician Assistant Hayley Arceneaux, Geoscientist Dr. Sian Proctor, and Air Force veteran data engineer Chris Sembroski.
The Inspiration4 mission marks many firsts in spaceflight history. Besides being the first all-civilian flight, it is the Dragon vehicle’s first free-flight mission that will revolve around our planet. Inspiration4 Medical Chief Arceneaux became the youngest woman to ever go to space at 29-years old and the first space traveler that has a prosthetic in her leg. She survived childhood bone cancer and was cured at St. Jude. Inspiration4 Pilot Dr. Sian Proctor, is the first black woman to become a spacecraft pilot and the fourth ever go to space. Dr. Proctor is 51 years old, she was a NASA astronaut candidate and got denied twice when she was younger. Now, she finally accomplished her life-long dream to travel to space on Monday night.
“The all-civilian Inspiration4 astronauts are paving the way for a future where space is more accessible to all who wish to go, and we are so proud that they entrusted us to fly them,” said SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell. “On behalf of all SpaceX employees, I want to thank the crew and their families for allowing us to be a part of their historic mission.” The crew’s return is currently scheduled for Saturday. They will reenter Earth’s atmosphere and splashdown off Florida’s Coast. If weather delays their return the spacecraft is carrying enough provisions for up to a week.
The crew rode atop a previously-flown Falcon 9 booster that returned from space approximately eight minutes after liftoff, it landed on the ‘Just Read The Instructions’ droneship; marking SpaceX’s 92nd recovery of an orbital-class rocket. They also rode the same Dragon capsule that launched SpaceX’s first operational NASA mission to the International Space Station (ISS).
Main engine cutoff and stage separation confirmed. Second stage engine burn underway pic.twitter.com/ihYA8ELUVA— SpaceX (@SpaceX) September 16, 2021
The crew’s goal is to use their space adventure to raise awareness and fundraise for St. Jude. Isaacman donated $100 million and paid for the spaceflight. The quartet will enjoy beautiful views of our planet through a new cupola window addition. “Second phasing burn complete. Dragon and the Inspiration4x crew have reached a circular orbit of 585km – a new Dragon altitude record,” SpaceX announced a couple of hours after liftoff. The altitude is 10-kilometers higher than planned, higher than the Space Station and NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, higher than any human has flown to since astronauts last went to the moon roughly 50 years ago. SpaceX shared an incredible view of the cupola that really shows how far away the crew is because we can see Earth’s curvature, video below. The Inspiration4 crew is closely monitored by SpaceX Mission control as they orbit around Earth every 90 minutes along a custom flight path for the next 3 days. They will conduct science research in microgravity and send an inspiring message to the children at St. Jude. You can watch the historic launch in the video below, courtesy of SpaceX.
View from Dragon’s cupola pic.twitter.com/Z2qwKZR2lK— SpaceX (@SpaceX) September 16, 2021
Dragon and the @inspiration4x astronauts are now officially in space! Dragon will conduct two phasing burns to reach its cruising orbit of 575km where the crew will spend the next three days orbiting planet Earth— SpaceX (@SpaceX) September 16, 2021
VIDEO: SpaceX Inspiration4 All-Civilian Launch
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I can see the Falcon 9 that will launch the Inspiration4 crew from historic Pad-39A! 😍 Super excited to watch it launch tonight! 🍀— Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo (@JaneidyEve) September 15, 2021
This mission is dedicated to fundraise for @StJude 💙 Donate: https://t.co/YjsrJ9opkd pic.twitter.com/yoR7ZyGgYr
Inspiration4 is the first time I see a Falcon 9 launch— Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo (@JaneidyEve) September 16, 2021
It was cool to see the historic flight! pic.twitter.com/4TAQBHz4nM