First All-Civilian Crew Launch To Orbit On SpaceX Rocket

Image credit: SpaceX

The door to outer space continues to be nudged wider, as first all-civilian crew circle the Earth aboard SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule

SpaceX has launched the first ‘amateur’ all-civilian crew into orbit, who were able to circle the Earth from outer space.

On Wednesday 15 September, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 successfully launched the Inspiration4 mission – the world’s first all-civilian human spaceflight to orbit – from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral.

SpaceX until now has been using its reusable SpaceX launcher to carry astronauts to the International Space Station.

SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule

Civilian mission

But this week it has carried a group of wealthy private citizens into orbit, making it the first all-civilian crew ever to circle the Earth from space.

It also signalled the start of Elon Musk’s space tourism ambitions, bringing him into competition with Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin.

The crew on the SpaceX flight was made up of billionaire e-commerce CEO of financial services firm Shift4 Payments, 38 year old Jared Isaacman, as well as Sian Proctor, 51, Hayley Arceneaux, 29, and Chris Sembroski, 42.

They were carried into space within the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, dubbed Resilience, on top of a reusable Falcon 9 rocket.

The Crew Dragon is fitted with a special observation dome instead of its usual docking hatch (when docking with the ISS). It climbed to nearly 125 miles (200 km) above Earth, where Isaacman read a statement thanking those who made possible a journey “right to the doorstep of an exciting and unexplored frontier, where few have come before and many are about to follow.”

“The door is open now, and it’s pretty incredible,” he was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Space tourism

Within three hours from blast off, the capsule had reached its final cruising orbital altitude of just over 363 miles (585 km) – higher than the International Space Station or Hubble Space Telescope, and the furthest any human has flown from Earth since NASA’s Apollo moon program ended in 1972, SpaceX announced.

At that height the Crew Dragon was circling the globe once every 90 minutes at a speed of some 17,000 miles per hour (27,360 kph), or roughly 22 times the speed of sound.

The spaceflight was significant, as it is the first crewed mission to orbit with no professional astronauts onboard. The Inspiration4 crew does not fly the spacecraft, which is controlled by ground-based flight teams and onboard guidance systems.

That said, two crew members are licensed pilots (Isaacman and Proctor).

It is expected to last about three days from launch to splashdown in the Atlantic, mission officials said.

So how much money was paid to secure the seats on the SpaceX spaceflight, which has gone much further into space and for much more duration, than Virgin Galactic or Blue Origin.

Reuters reported that Isaacman paid an undisclosed sum to fellow billionaire Musk to send himself and his three crewmates aloft.

Time magazine has put the ticket price for all four seats at $200 million, so $50 million per seat.

The mission was reportedly conceived by Isaacman mainly to raise awareness and donations for one of his favourite causes, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.