SpaceX ‘go for launch’ of first all-civilian crew bound for orbit By Reuters
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO. The Inspiration4 crew, comprising Chris Sembroski and Sian Proctor as well as Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, poses for launch practice in Cape Canaveral (Florida) September 12, 2021. Inspiration4/John Kraus/Handout via REUTERS
By Julio-Cesar Chavez and Steve Gorman
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) -The latest in a recent line of billionaire space enthusiasts prepared for liftoff on Wednesday along with three other private citizens aboard a SpaceX rocket ship, aiming to become the first all-civilian crew launched into Earth orbit.
Jared Isaacman is the American founder of Shift4 Payments Inc, and the chief executive. The four amateur space travelers were to launch from Cape Canaveral’s Kennedy Space Center at 8 p.m. (0000 GMT).
SpaceX’s pay customers are not expected to accompany the amateur astronauts on this flight. It is estimated that it will take three days to complete from launch to splashdown in Atlantic.
SpaceX chief integration engineer John Insprucker stated that “all is well for launch” about 3 1/2 hours prior to liftoff in a SpaceX Webcast.
Isaacman, 38 and his fellow crewmates Sian Proctor (51), Hayley Arkeneaux (29), and Chris Sembroski (42) walked out of the SpaceX hangar wave to cheering crowds.
They were then driven by two cars across the Space Center Complex to a support structure, where they were given their black and white spacesuits for the liftoff.
After boarding the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule (named Resilience), they headed towards the launchpad. The spacecraft was mounted on one of Falcon 9 rockets, and equipped with an observation dome instead of the standard docking hatch.
Elon Musk is launching his new business of orbital tourism. It’s a big leap from other companies that offer rides on rocket ships for customers who pay small sums to experience the thrill – and the bragging rights of spaceflight.
Isaacman paid a large sum of money to Musk, a billionaire to fly with him and three other crew members to space. Time magazine estimates that the price of all four tickets is $200 million.
Isaacman designed the mission, Inspiration4, primarily to help raise funds and awareness for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. This is a prominent Memphis pediatric cancer center.
Inspiration4 will orbit above Earth at an altitude of 360 mile (575 km), which is more than that of the International Space Station and Hubble Space Telescope. Crew Dragon, at that elevation, will travel around the world approximately once per 90 minutes, traveling 17,000 miles/hour (27.360 km/h). This is 22 times faster than the speed of sound.
LEAP AHEAD OF RIVALS
Rival companies Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin inaugurated their own private-astronaut services this summer, with their respective founding executives, billionaires Richard Branson https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/science/virgin-galactics-branson-ready-space-launch-aboard-rocket-plane-2021-07-11 and Jeff Bezos https://www.reuters.com/article/us-space-exploration-blueorigin-idAFKBN2EQ0EP, each going along for the ride.
The suborbital flights took only minutes compared to Inspiration4’s time-consuming spaceflight profiles.
SpaceX is already the largest player in the growing constellation of commercial rocket ventures. It has launched many cargo payloads as well as astronauts to NASA’s International Space Station. Already, two of the Dragon capsules have docked at that station.
The Inspiration4 crew won’t be able to fly the spacecraft. It will be controlled by ground-based pilot teams and onboard guidance system, although two members of its crew are licensed pilots.
Isaacman is qualified to fly military and commercial jets and has taken the responsibility of the mission commander. Proctor, an astronaut candidate and geoscientist, was designated the mission pilot.
The crew also includes “chief medical officer,” Arceneaux (a Bone Cancer survivor who has been rehabilitated as a St. Jude physician assistant) and “specialist”, Sembroski (a U.S. Air Force veteran, aerospace data engineer).
Five months of intense preparations have been put into the four crewmates, which included altitude fitness and centrifuge (G force), simulator and microgravity training, emergency drills and classroom work, as well as medical examinations.
According to Inspiration4, the mission is not a simple joyride.
In media materials, Inspiration4 stated that the crew would perform medical experiments once they are in orbit. They will also conduct “potentially applicable applications to human health on Earth or during future spaceflights.”
Before, during, or after the flight, crew members can also provide medical data and biological samples.
Isaacman stated that the crew of Inspiration4 was eager to make sure there is a bright future for all who launch over the coming years.