CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - For the first time in 60 years of human spaceflight, a rocket is poised to blast into orbit with no professional astronauts on board, only four tourists.
SpaceX’s first private flight will be led by a 38-year-old entrepreneur who’s bankrolling the entire trip. He’s taking two sweepstakes winners with him on the three-day, round-the-world trip, along with a health care worker who survived childhood cancer.
They’ll ride alone in a fully automated Dragon capsule, the same kind that SpaceX uses to send astronauts to and from the International Space Station for NASA. But the chartered flight won't be going there.
Set to launch Wednesday at 8:02 p.m. from Kennedy Space Center, the two men and two women will soar 100 miles higher than the space station, aiming for an altitude of 357 miles, just above the current position of the Hubble Space Telescope.
But will weather conditions allow the launch to even occur on Wednesday?
FOX 35 Storm Team Chief Meteorologist Jayme King says that is an 80 percent chance of favorable weather at launch time.
There are some concerns for flight through precipitation and some showers earlier in the day, but 8:02 p.m. looks to be okay.
Thick cloud layer use could also come into play but as of now, liftoff does not appear to be affected.
The all-civilian crew consists of Mission Commander Jared Isaacman, Mission Pilot Dr. Sian Proctor, Medical Officer Hayley Arceneaux, and Mission Specialist Chris Sembroski.
- Isaacman is the founder and CEO of Shift4 payments and an accomplished jet pilot who holds several world records including two Speed-Around-The-World flights in 2008 and 2009 that raised money and awareness for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. He also has flown in over 100 airshows as part of the Black Diamond Jet Team, dedicating them to charitable causes. He also co-founded what would become the world’s largest private air force, Draken International, to train pilots for the United States Armed Forces.
- Proctor is a 51-year-old entrepreneur, educator, and trained pilot. She was born in Guam, where her father was working at the NASA tracking station during the Apollo missions.
- Arceneaux is a 29-year-old physician assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, where she was a former patient who battled bone cancer at age 10.
- Sembroski is a 41-year-old aerospace industry employee at Lockheed Martin and United States Air Force veteran.
The four of them have completed astronaut training with SpaceX at its Hawthrone, California, headquarters.
While in space, the Inspiration4 crew members will complete experiments.
Front row: Chris Sembroski (left) and Hayley Arceneaux (right). Back row: Dr. Sian Proctor (left) and Jared Isaacman (right)
Jimmy Wu, an instructor at the Center for Space Medicine at Baylor College, said that the group he works with will collect data from the Inspiration4 team's experiments. It will be sued to help find a breakthrough approach towards human health and the impacts of space on the human body.
"It is not a safe environment for life and so there are things that happen to the body that we have been understanding for the last 60 years," Wu said. He said that they are specifically focusing research on regular people who have a variety of health conditions, like diabetes and heart disease, this time around, rather than a typical space traveler, like an astronaut who is top shape.
The crew will conduct three in-flight tests that focus on getting blood samples to test inflammation and changes in the body, a series of cognitive tests designed to record changes in the brain during spaceflight, and a controlled ultrasound that could one day be used by the average person at home.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon sit on launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center as it is prepared for the first completely private mission to fly into orbit on September 14, 2021 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. SpaceX is scheduled to laun
"A lot of the technology we are working on is about, in the end, about giving [the average people the ability] to manage their own health and to be able to do it without necessarily depending on all the burdens we have of our current healthcare system and going to the doctor and wait times associated with that," Wu explained
The Inspiration4 mission will also raise funds and awareness for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
A backup launch date has been set for Thursday, September 16th.
Pre-launch coverage for Wednesday’s liftoff begins at 7:30 p.m. on the FOX 35 website, app, and YouTube channel.