Launch Window Tweaked For All-Civilian SpaceX Mission

Inspiration4 is billed as the first space mission completely crewed by civilians. Inspiration4

Mission controllers for Inspiration4 have updated the launch window for SpaceX’s next crewed mission to Earth orbit, launching from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center.

A new five-hour launch window begins at 8:02 p.m. ET on Wednesday, according to a statement. The window is based on an updated weather forecast for the launch site and possible landing locations off the Florida coasts. The forecast calls for a 70 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for liftoff.

Here are five things you need to know about Inspiration4, which is billed as the first space mission completely crewed by civilians.

What Makes It Important?

The crewmembers are not professional astronauts and have never traveled to space.

While demonstrating a new era of space exploration not led by military or government space agencies, the mission aims to open access “to inspiring projects that are otherwise unable to overcome high barriers of traditional research.”

Experiments planned for the mission are designed to learn more about how life in space affects human health and performance.

Inspiration4 is largely aimed at inspiring the world and raising money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s fight against childhood cancer.

Why Is the Mission Unusual?

In addition to being the first all-civilian, non-professional astronaut crew of a space mission, Inspiration4 aims to send astronauts farther into space than any space mission since 2009, according to the website. During the three-day mission, the capsule is expected to orbit about 335 miles (540 km) above Earth at around 17,000 mph.

Because this flight won’t be visiting the International Space Station, SpaceX has swapped out the Dragon capsule’s docking component with a large observation dome.

The Inspiration4 Crew

All four crewmembers have undergone six months of astronaut training. Seated inside a SpaceX Dragon capsule atop a Falcon 9 reusable rocket will be a billionaire CEO and pilot, a physician assistant, a U.S. Air Force veteran and a geoscientist.

Mission commander Jared Isaacman, CEO of Shift4 Payments, is an experienced turbine pilot type-rated to fly commercial and military aircraft. Inspiration4

Jared Isaacman, CEO of Shift4 Payments, will command the mission. Isaacman is an experienced jet pilot who is rated to fly commercial and military aircraft, including the Aermacchi MB-339 and the Aero L-159 Alca. According to the Inspiration4 website, Isaacman has set several world records and has flown in more than 100 airshows. Isaacman bought all four seats on this mission and worked with SpaceX to develop the crew selection process.

Geoscientist Dr. Sian Proctor was a finalist for NASA’s astronaut program and is a veteran of several space exploration simulations. Inspiration4

For geoscientist Dr. Sian Proctor, NASA is a family tradition. Her father worked at a NASA tracking station during the Apollo program. Proctor herself has been a geoscientist professor for 20 years and is a veteran of several space exploration simulation programs.

Chris Sembroski is a U.S. Air Force veteran who holds a degree in professional aeronautics and works in the aerospace industry. Inspiration4

Chris Sembroski maintained Minuteman III ICBMs while serving in the U.S. Air Force. He also was deployed to Iraq. Sembroski holds a degree in professional aeronautics and works in the aerospace industry.

At age 29, physician assistant Hayley Arceneaux will be the youngest U.S. citizen to fly in space, according to the mission website. Inspiration4

Hayley Arceneaux’s story is unique. As a child, she survived bone cancer thanks to treatment at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, based in Memphis, Tennessee. Arceneaux earned a physician assistant degree in 2016 and now works at the hospital with leukemia and lymphoma patients. At age 29, Arceneaux will be the youngest U.S. citizen to fly in space.

Fundraising Through Inspiration

St. Jude launched a $200 million wide-ranging fundraising campaign linked to the mission in February.

How to Watch

Watch the liftoff online at SpaceX’s website or on its YouTube channel.

Or, witness the historic launch in person. For $250 plus tax, Kennedy Space Center is offering visitors a “Feel the Heat” package that includes access to a viewing area about 4 miles from the launch pad.

Thom is a former senior editor for FLYING. Previously, his freelance reporting appeared in aviation industry magazines. Thom also spent three decades as a TV and digital journalist at CNN’s bureaus in Washington and Atlanta, eventually specializing in aviation. He has reported from air shows in Oshkosh, Farnborough and Paris. Follow Thom on Twitter @thompatterson.

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