SpaceX Inspiration4 all-civilian orbital mission ready to fly

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KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. Sept. 15 (UPI) — The SpaceX mission Inspiration4 — the first all-private orbital spaceflight — is planned for launch from Florida on Wednesday night, carrying four civilians led by philanthropist and pilot Jared Isaacman.

Liftoff of the Crew Dragon capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled for a five-hour window starting at 8:02 p.m. EDT from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center.

While other private missions have gone into space briefly, Inspiration4 will be the first to orbit the Earth — flying at more that 265 miles high.

“Everyone is fully prepared … and confident they have the skills necessary to successfully fly and return,” Scott “Kidd” Poteet, the mission director, told UPI in an interview Tuesday.

“It’s been many long hours of training in SpaceX simulators or here at Kennedy Space Center to know the capsule, how it functions and how to splash down in the ocean.”

The flight is Isaacman’s brainchild as his personal record-breaking adventure and a fundraiser for one of his favorite charities, Memphis-based St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

As part of his vision to inspire others, Isaacman chose civilians for the crew: childhood cancer survivor and physician assistant Haley Arceneaux, 29, who is the mission medical officer; educator, artist and pilot Sian Proctor, 51; and engineer Chris Sembroski, 42.

The exact length of the mission will be determined by spacecraft function and weather in splashdown regions near Florida in the Atlantic Ocean and northern Gulf of Mexico.

The weather for liftoff is expected to be 80% favorable for launch, with a chance of storm clouds or wind, according to the U.S. Space Force forecast.

A top SpaceX official made a full-throated endorsement of crew readiness in a press conference Tuesday.

“They’ve climbed Mount Rainier together. And there’ve been a lot of jet fighter flights,” SpaceX’s Benji Reed, senior director of human spaceflight, said of the crew training regimen.

“Our mission control team has done 12-hour and 30-hour simulations to make sure they’re ready to go.”

The days in orbit are to be filled with medical experiments, Arceneaux said during the press conference.

“We’re going to collect a lot of swabs to learn about the [bacteria] microbiome and how that changes in space and we’re going to perform ultrasound exams to evaluate fluid shifts in microgravity, as well as performing some cognitive tests and studying radiation effects,” Arceneaux said.

Proctor noted that she will be the first Black pilot on an orbital space mission.

“I have this opportunity to not only accomplish my dream, but also inspire … the next generation of women of color and girls of color,” she said.

Proctor and the team received a call from former first lady Michelle Obama on Tuesday in recognition of the history-making launch.

“We had a very nice conversation that will stay with me the rest of my life because she inspires me,” Proctor said.

The Dragon capsule, versions of which have carried astronauts to the International Space Station three times, has been modified to place a glass dome, or cupola, where its docking hatch normally would be.

“The cupola will be the largest ever single-structure viewing port in space,” mission director Poteet said. “That view is going to be unlike any other. I mean it’s an amazing feature. SpaceX plans to provide images from space the likes of which nobody has ever seen.”

Support teams work around the SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft shortly after it landed with NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Shannon Walker and Victor Glover and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi aboard in the Gulf of Mexico off Panama City, Fla., on Sunday. Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA | License Photo

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