SpaceX: ushering in new era of space missions

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Plans for the world’s first all-civilian mission to space were announced earlier this year from SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, CA. The mission is being targeted for the fourth quarter of this year and will be commanded by Jared Isaacman, the 37-year-old founder and Chief Executive Officer of Shift4 Payments and an accomplished pilot and adventurer.

Inspiration4 will leave Earth from Kennedy Space Center’s historic Launch Complex 39A, the embarkation point for Apollo and Space Shuttle missions, and travel across a low earth orbit on a multi-day journey that will continually eclipse more than 90% of the earth’s population. Named in recognition of the four-person crew that will raise awareness and funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, this milestone represents a new era for human spaceflight and exploration.

“Inspiration4 is the realization of a lifelong dream and a step towards a future in which anyone can venture out and explore the stars. I appreciate the tremendous responsibility that comes with commanding this mission and I want to use this historic moment to inspire humanity while helping to tackle childhood cancer here on Earth,” said Jared Isaacman.

Isaacman and the Inspiration4 crew will undergo commercial astronaut training by SpaceX on the Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft, including a specific focus on orbital mechanics, operating in microgravity, zero gravity, and other forms of stress testing. They will receive emergency preparedness training, spacesuit and spacecraft ingress and egress exercises, as well as partial- and full-mission simulations.

The mission will launch from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and will be carefully monitored at every step by SpaceX mission control as the spacecraft orbits the planet every 90 minutes along a customized flight path. Upon conclusion of the multi-day journey, Dragon will reenter Earth’s atmosphere for a soft water landing off the coast of Florida.

The Dragon spacecraft is capable of carrying up to 7 passengers to and from Earth orbit, and beyond. It is the only spacecraft currently flying that is capable of returning significant amounts of cargo to Earth, and is the first private spacecraft to take humans to the space station.

Falcon 9 is a reusable, two-stage rocket designed and manufactured by SpaceX for the reliable and safe transport of people and payloads into Earth orbit and beyond. Falcon 9 is the world’s first orbital class reusable rocket. Reusability allows SpaceX to refly the most expensive parts of the rocket, which in turn drives down the cost of space access.

Isaacman has given St. Jude two seats on the Inspiration4 mission. The first seat is reserved for a St. Jude ambassador with direct ties to the mission who exemplifies the pillar of Hope as well as the courageous vision upon which St. Jude was founded  – compassion, unity, equality and inclusion. The second seat will represent the mission pillar of Generosity. During the month of February, members of the public can enter for a chance to join the flight to space and support the lifesaving mission of St. Jude.

An accomplished pilot rated to fly commercial and military aircraft, Isaacman holds several world records including a Speed- Around-The-World flight to raise money and awareness for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. He has flown in over 100 airshows as part of the Black Diamond Jet Team, dedicating every performance to charitable causes. In 2011, Isaacman co-founded what would become the world’s largest private air force, Draken International, to train pilots for the United States Armed Forces.

Traveling weightless at over 17,000 miles per hour, the crew will conduct experiments designed to expand our knowledge of the universe. Crew Dragon’s 365lbs cargo capacity will be allocated for both crew essentials as well as scientific equipment dedicated to micro-gravity research and experimentation.

Inspiration4 is committed to assigning the maximum possible mass towards this valuable research, providing access to space for inspiring projects that are otherwise unable to overcome the high barriers of traditional space-based research.

SpaceX designed, manufactured, tested, and has flown multiple missions with one of the safest, most-advanced human spaceflight systems ever built.

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

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

Prior to flying NASA astronauts as part of the Commercial Crew Program, SpaceX put every component of every system through its paces, including two flight tests to and from the International Space Station, demonstrations of Dragon’s escape system both on the launch pad and in-flight, over 700 tests of the spacecraft’s SuperDraco engines, more than 500 joint soft-capture docking tests to validate the performance of Dragon’s docking system design, about 8,000,000 hours of hardware in the loop software testing, and nearly 100 tests and flights of Dragon’s parachutes to ensure a safe landing back on Earth – in addition to all of the knowledge gained from twenty one previous successful cargo resupply missions to the space station and over 100 Falcon 9 launches.

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