SpaceX is preparing to send the first all-civilian crew into Earth orbit Wednesday evening, capping a summer of private spaceflight with one of the most ambitious tourism missions to date.
A five-hour launch window for “Inspiration4” opens from 8:02 pm (0002 GMT Thursday), and weather conditions remain good with an 80 percent chance of launch, according to official forecasters.
The spaceship’s trajectory will take it to an altitude of 357 miles (575 kilometers), deeper into space than the International Space Station (ISS), and the furthest any humans have gone since the 2009 Hubble telescope maintenance mission.
The mission was paid for by Jared Isaacman, a 38-year-old high school dropout, founder of Shift4 Payments, and aviator.
“We understand how lucky and fortunate we are,” Isaacman told a press briefing Tuesday.
Hayley Arceneaux, a pediatric cancer survivor, is a 29-year-old physician assistant. She will be the youngest American to go into orbit and the first person with a prosthesis, on a part of her femur.
Sian Proctor, a 51-year-old geoscientist and educator, was almost selected to become an astronaut for NASA in 2009.
– Observation dome –
For SpaceX, this is nothing less than a first step towards a multi-planetary humanity — founder and CEO Elon Musk’s ultimate vision.
They will also undergo tests before and after the trip, to measure its effect on their bodies. Their training only lasted about six months.
The Dragon will be equipped, for the first time, with a cupola observation dome — the largest ever space window — to take in the view. The dome replaces the usual mechanism used on Dragons to dock with the ISS.
They also completed high G-force training on a centrifuge — a long spinning arm — and jet flights.
Arceneaux was treated there as a child, and now works there.
– Space tourism –
Branson, the Virgin Galactic founder, achieved the feat first, on July 11, and was followed by the Blue Origin boss nine days later.
This will be the fourth crewed mission for SpaceX, which has now sent 10 astronauts to the ISS for US space agency NASA.
Originally published as In first, SpaceX to send all-civilian crew into Earth orbit