It’s a date: SpaceX set for world’s first all-civilian spaceflight

Four private individuals will orbit the Earth on SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule on September 15th, making it “the first all-civilian human spaceflight mission.” They will launch next week from NASA’s Kennedy Center in Florida, spend three days in space and then reenter Earth’s atmosphere for a splashdown near the coast of Florida. 

The crew members in a recent photo. Image credit: SpaceX

The crew will board SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and a Dragon capsule and then take off, reaching an altitude of 335 miles – 75 higher than the International Space Station and on par with the Hubble Space Telescope. The exact flight time will be chosen a few days before the launch, taking into account the weather conditions and the flight trajectory. 

SpaceX named the mission Inspiration4, with the “4” referencing the number of crew members. These are commander Jared Isaacman, pilot Sian Proctor, medical officer Hayley Arceneaux and mission specialist Chris Sembroski. The project is funded by Isaacman, an entrepreneur behind the US payment processing startup Shift4Shop

Isaacman pledged to donate $100 million to St. Jude hospital as part of a push to raise $200 million more dollars for the organization. He holds several world records, has flown in over 100 airshows and co-founded the world’s largest private air force, Draken International, which trains pilots for the United States Armed Forces. Arceneaux is a physician at St. Jude’s hospital, where she battled bone cancer, while Sembroski is an aerospace industry employee and an Air Force veteran. Also joining the launch, Proctor is an entrepreneur, educator, and trained pilot, born in Guam, where her father worked at NASA’s tracking stations during the Apollo missions.

Upcoming steps

In a press release, Space X said the four crew members will arrive in Florida on Thursday for the mission’s final preparations. They have been training hard for months after the team was officially announced in March. Their preparation included centrifuge training, Dragon simulations, Zero-G plane training, and medical testing. 

“Inspiration4’s goal is to inspire humanity to support St. Jude here on earth while also seeing new possibilities for human spaceflight,” Isaacman said in March. “Each of these outstanding crew members embodies the best of humanity, and I am humbled to lead them on this historic and purposeful mission and the adventure of a lifetime.”

US multimillionaire Dennis Tito was the first tourist to go into space, launching to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2001 on an eight-day trip. Space tourism didn’t pick up much after that, with just six other private citizens flying. Still, the industry is expected to expand soon, with big plans of companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin. 

Space X has repeatedly said it would be willing to sell seats to tourists on its Crew Dragon capsule, which has been mainly used so far to send NASA astronauts to and from the ISS. The company’s founder, billionaire Elon Musk, has expressed interest in going to space, but reports said he might be doing that with a Virgin Galactic flight. 

Musk made a deal in 2018 with billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and a group of artists to fly on the Starship rocket on a trip around the moon in 2023. According to Musk, Starship is meant to be “an interplanetary transport system that’s capable of getting from Earth to anywhere in the solar system.” For now, the all-civilian spaceflight will already be a big step. 

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