Everything you need to know about Inspiration4, SpaceX's first manned mission to travel into space today without an astronaut

Inspiration4, SpaceX’s first manned mission to travel into space without an astronaut on board, is scheduled to launch this Wednesday, September 15. If all goes according to plan and the weather is right, the Resilience Crew Dragon ship It will take off at around 8:02 pm EDT – 2:02 a.m. Spanish peninsular time Thursday morning – becoming the first fully commercial crewed flight to reach low Earth orbit.

And so, friends and friends, will begin SpaceX’s career in the world of commercial space travel. Elon Musk’s company laid the first pebble on this path a year and a half ago, when in May 2020 he brought NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station on the Demo-2 mission aboard the Dragon capsule.

This was the first manned private spacecraft to leave our planet, although It has rained quite a bit since then and Musk’s competition has also made its first steps in space tourism: in July, both Richard Branson ‘s Virgin Galactic and Richard Branson’ s Blue Origin Jeff Bezos, with their respective billionaire founders on board, they launched manned vehicles to the edge of space.

And, if all this has been done already, what is new about Inpiration4? Well, to date, every mission to low Earth orbit has included at least one professional astronaut employed by a space agency. Mission of SpaceX It will only have a ‘civil’ crew – understanding civilians as people who are not part of any government body.

Bezos and the rest of the crew exit the capsule after the successful flight.

Inspiration4 will put Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Sian Proctor and Chris Sembroski into orbit, which will depart from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, United States, and will go around the earth repeatedly for three days before hitting the Florida coast. To see a clear difference: Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin flights were suborbital and lasted only a few minutes.

Who is part of the Inspiration4 crew?

Jared Isaacman is a billionaire, founder and CEO of Shift4 Payments, and he is responsible for ensuring that the Inspiration4 crew is what it is, as it “paid out an unspecified but allegedly exorbitant sum” so that he and three “specially selected travel companions” can reach low Earth orbit aboard the Resilience Crew Dragon ship, Reuters reports.

This gives us an idea of ​​where space tourism is going and that, unsurprisingly, it will not be for everyone, but only for the wealthiest. In fact, Spaceflight Now claims that SpaceX will eventually charge $ 50 million per seat for future private missions. Small change…

Isaacman, 38, will be joined by Hayley Arceneaux, 29, a medical assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and a survivor of childhood bone cancer, and also the first person to go into space with a prosthetic limb and the youngest American to orbit Earth.

They complete the list Sian Proctor, 51, geoscientist, licensed pilot and passionate about space exploration, who came to apply to be a NASA astronaut, although she was only a finalist; and Chris Sembroski, 41, US Air Force veteran and aerospace data engineer.

The Inspiration4 crew.
The Inspiration4 crew.

Both Proctor and Sembroski won a worldwide competition for their seats, during which more than 110 million dollars were raised for St. Jude Children’s Hospital – at least, billionaires tend to have that, that they are of great gestures and that they give what they have … because they can, of course.

The four crew members have been prepared for emergencies, spacecraft entry and exit exercises and spacesuits, as well as simulations of partial and complete missions. As reported, each of them represents one of the pillars of the mission: leadership, hope, generosity and prosperity.

What will Inspiration4’s journey be like?

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was sent to Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center on Saturday, September 11, and the crew conducted a dress rehearsal the following day. As we said, Liftoff is scheduled for Wednesday, September 15, with a five-hour launch window starting at 8:02 p.m. EDT -2:02 am on Thursday in mainland Spain-.

Those responsible for the mission reported Monday that weather conditions are 70% favorable, but if for some reason the launch is canceled, the new launch window starts at the same time on Thursday.

Once the take-off is completed -which will be carried out in a totally autonomous way just like the rest of the trip, so that at no time will the team on board have to pilot the ship-, SpaceX will send the Resilience capsule to an altitude of 575 kilometers thanks to the first impulse of a Falcon 9 rocket, which will detach itself and return to Earth as usual on flights of the company of Musk.

To get an idea of ​​how far SpaceX sends its commercial crew, the International Space Station is approximately 425 km above Earth and this summer Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin did not reach more than 106 km of altitude, which is understood as the edge of space.

When the spacecraft reaches those 575 kilometers of altitude, It will travel at 22 times the speed of sound – about 28,160 kilometers per hour – and will orbit the Earth once every 90 minutes along a customized flight path, which will be carefully monitored at every step by SpaceX control teams. And so they will be for three days.

What will the Inspiration4 crew do for three days in space?

The crew members have received training for about six months at SpaceX’s base in Hawthorne, California, which included zero-gravity maneuvers and practices with the gravitational forces they will experience in space.

As long as they’re in space the crew will conduct “research experiments carefully selected on human health and performance ”with“ possible applications for human health on Earth and during future space flights, ”according to the Inspiration4 website.

Jared Isaacman during training for the Inspiration4 mission.
Jared Isaacman during training for the Inspiration4 mission.

With technical assistance from Weill Cornell Medicine and the Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) at Baylor School of Medicine, the crew will track ECG (electrocardiogram) activity, movement, sleep, heart rate and blood oxygen, among other health measures. They will also perform blood tests, balance and perception tests, and use an ultrasound device to scan your organs.

Something very interesting for the crew is that Resilience will not dock with the International Space Station, allowing removal of the Crew Dragon docking port and putting in place a glass dome that will allow Isaacman, Arceneaux, Proctor and Sembroski to have unparalleled views.

Upon completion of the mission, the Dragon capsule will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere to splash off the coast of Florida.

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