SpaceX Announces First-Ever All Civilian Flight Crew

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NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken inside a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule. Image credit: NASA

Inspiration4 will be the world’s first all-commercial astronaut mission that will put all an civilian crew into orbit in Q4 this year

SpaceX has announced that it will put, for the first time ever, an all civilian flight crew into orbit later this year.

The announcement of the Inspiration4 mission will be the first-ever orbital flight crewed entirely by non-astronauts, and will be funded by Jared Isaacman, founder of CEO of payment processing startup Shift4 Payments.

Indeed, Isaacman is “donating the three seats alongside him aboard Dragon to individuals from the general public who will be announced in the weeks ahead.”

Image credit: SpaceX

Civilian crew

The announcement revealed that the journey, expected to take place in the fourth quarter of 2021, will be a multi-day flight.

“In 2020, SpaceX returned America’s ability to fly NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station for the first time since the Space Shuttle’s last flight in 2011,” said Elon Musk’s space exploration firm. “In addition to flying astronauts for NASA, Dragon was also designed to carry commercial astronauts to Earth orbit, the space station, or beyond.”

“Today, it was announced SpaceX is targeting no earlier than the fourth quarter of this year for Falcon 9’s launch of Inspiration4 – the world’s first all-commercial astronaut mission to orbit – from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida,” SpaceX said.

Members of the public who are interested can attempt to secure a seat on the mission here.

It is understood that one of the seats has already been donated to a St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital “ambassador,” who has already been selected (thought to be a healthcare worker looking after children).

“The Inspiration4 crew will receive commercial astronaut training by SpaceX on the Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft, orbital mechanics, operating in microgravity, zero gravity, and other forms of stress testing,” said SpaceX. “They will go through emergency preparedness training, spacesuit and spacecraft ingress and egress exercises, as well as partial and full mission simulations.”

“This multi-day journey, orbiting Earth every 90 minutes along a customized flight path, will be carefully monitored at every step by SpaceX mission control,” the firm added. “Upon conclusion of the mission, Dragon will reenter Earth’s atmosphere for a soft water landing off the coast of Florida.”

The third seat is being offered to a member of the public, and the fourth seat is reserved for a winner of a contest, limited to customers of Isaacman’s eCommerce platform.

Training of the all civilian crew is expected to begin within the next 30 days, CNN reported.

Mars outlook

SpaceX is making history by being a commercial company offering space flight services to both NASA and private citizens.

NASA of course had retired its Space Shuttle programme back in 2011 in order to focus its resources on longer-range manned missions to the Moon or Mars.

SpaceX uses the Cargo Dragon variant of the Dragon capsule to lift freight into orbit, and has embarked on an ambitious satellite-based internet access programme called Starlink, that will place thousands of satellites into orbit.

Last month SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket that carried 143 satellites into orbit, setting a new world record for the most satellites launched by a single rocket.

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