The world’s first all-civilian space mission, known as Inspiration4, is poised to blast off on a three-day trip through orbit onboard a SpaceX vehicle, marking the only time in history that a crew solely composed of private citizens have embarked on such a journey.
A five-hour launch window for the unusual mission will open at 8:02pm ET on Wednesday, September 15. If bad weather or other factors scuttle the launch, the mission will be rescheduled for 8:05pm ET on Thursday, September 16. The mission will depart from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and will be propelled into orbit by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.
Both SpaceX and Netflix, which produced a docuseries about the mission, will be livestreaming the launch from their YouTube channels.
Led by Jared Isaacman, a billionaire businessman and the mission’s commander, the civilian astronauts will travel through space in SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Resilience, which successfully carried professional astronauts to the International Space Station last November and returned them to Earth in May.
Unlike that mission, Isaacman and his fellow commercial astronauts will spend three days traveling through low-Earth orbit before returning for a splashdown landing in the Atlantic Ocean this weekend.
“There will be some interesting elements to the orbit because we’re not going to the space station, which is kind of unique,” Isaacman said in an episode of VICE’s “Space Show.” “We’re going somewhere else, which we think is important. It’s actually a big stepping stone to the missions to come, which will hopefully be to the Moon and Mars and beyond.”
The Inspiration4 crew also includes pilot Sian Proctor, a geology professor and science communicator, mission specialist Christopher Sembroski, a data engineer, and chief medical officer Hayley Arceneaux, a 29-year-old physician assistant who will become the youngest American to orbit Earth once the mission has launched.
Isaacman, the founder of Shift4 Payments, partnered with SpaceX for the mission and provided funds for the trip. Proctor won a competition for a place on the flight, while Sembroski was the beneficiary of a multi-million dollar raffle for a seat, which raised funds for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Isaacman donated a seat to Arceneaux, who survived bone cancer as a child and received treatment at St. Jude, and who is now an employee at the hospital.
Inspiration4 is the latest in a series of commercial human spaceflight milestones, which includes recent suborbital trips conducted by the companies Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin. Since the dawn of the space age, the vast majority of astronauts have been sent off our planet by federal agencies, such as NASA or Roscosmos, but Inspiration4 is part of a new guard of civilian space travelers that may reshape human spaceflight in the years and decades to come.