A SpaceX rocketship is set Wednesday to fly another billionaire and his close friends into space. It will be the first all-civilian crew launched into Earth orbit.
Jared Isaacman, the American founder and chief executive of e-commerce firm Shift4 Payments, will lead three fellow spaceflight novices on a three-day trip from blastoff at Cape Canaveral, Florida, to splashdown in the Atlantic.
Isaacman revealed Dr Sian Proctor, a community college educator in Tempe, Arizona, and Chris Sembroski, a former Air Force missile man from Everett, Washington, will join him and Hayley Arceneaux for three days in orbit in the third quarter of this year.
The 38-year-old tech mogul has plunked down an unspecified but presumably exorbitant sum for fellow billionaire and SpaceX owner Elon Musk to fly Isaacman and three specially selected travel mates into orbit aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.
The crew vehicle, dubbed Resilience, was set for liftoff from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center atop one of Musk’s reusable Falcon 9 rockets, with a five-hour targeted launch window that opens at 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
A successful flight could spawn a new era of commercial space tourism, with several firms vying for wealthy customers to pay a small fortune to experience the exhilaration of supersonic travel, weightlessness, and the visual spectacle of space.
The so-called Inspiration4 mission was conceived by Isaacman mainly to raise awareness and support for one of his favorite causes, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a leading pediatric cancer center.
He has pledged $100 million personally to the institute.
SpaceX is easily the most well-established player in the burgeoning constellation of commercial rocket ventures, having already launched numerous cargo payloads and astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA.
Rival companies Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin both recently celebrated their debut astro-tourism missions with their respective founding executives, billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos, each going along for the ride.
But those two high-profile flights were suborbital in scale, sending their crews of citizen astronauts to space and back in a matter of minutes.
The SpaceX flight is designed to carry its four passengers where no all-civilian crew has gone before, into Earth orbit.
There, they will circle the globe once every 90 minutes at more than 17,000 mph (27,360 kph), or roughly 22 times the speed of sound. The target altitude is 575 kilometers, or nearly 360 miles, beyond the orbits of the International Space Station or even the Hubble Space Telescope.
The four crewmates have spent five months making rigorous preparations, including altitude fitness, centrifuge (G-force), microgravity and simulator training, emergency drills, classroom work, and medical exams.