Another billionaire entrepreneur will take to space this week, strapped into a capsule aboard a SpaceX rocketship as part of an astronaut team poised to make history as the first all-civilian crew to reach Earth orbit. Jared Isaacman, the American founder and chief executive of e-commerce firm Shift4 Payments (FOUR.N), will lead three fellow spaceflight novices on a three-day trip from blast off at Cape Canaveral, Florida, to splashdown in the Atlantic.
SpaceX owner Elon Musk has agreed to fly Isaacman and three specially chosen travel companions into orbit aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule for an unspecified but possibly exorbitant sum.
A Falcon 9 rocket-borne crew vehicle, named Resilience, was slated to transfer to the International Space Station from NASA's Kennedy Space Center on Thursday night during a five-hour window that begins at 8 p.m.
According to weather forecasts released on Sunday, there was an 80 percent chance of favourable launch conditions for Wednesday launch on a ground-based mission. Space tourism could start to take off with a successful mission, with multiple companies vying for wealthy travelers who can afford to spend a small fortune to experience the thrill of supersonic travel, weightlessness and the beauty of space.
Rocket travel is inherently dangerous and poses a point of contention regarding fair consumer risk ratings.
NASA has already sent astronauts to the International Space Station in numerous launches by SpaceX, making it the most established player on the burgeoning constellation of commercial rockets.
In a recent celebration of their debut astrotourism missions, Virgin Galactic (SPCE.N) and Blue Origin, both founded by billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos, joined by their respective founding executives. But those two high-profile flights were suborbital in scale, sending their crews of citizen astronauts to space and back in a matter of minutes.
The SpaceX flight is designed to carry its four passengers where no all-civilian crew has gone before, into Earth orbit. They will travel 22 times faster than sound, or roughly 17,000 mph (27,360 kph), every 90 minutes. It would travel at a distance of 575 kilometers or roughly 360 miles, beyond the orbits of space stations or even the Hubble Space Telescope. It will take off from the launch pad vertically, entirely from the ground, just like Blue Origin's launch vehicle.
While Isaacman and geoscientist Sian Proctor have pilot licenses, they will not have any role in operating Inspiration4. As the mission "commander," Isaacman will fly a commercial or military jet, while Proctor will hand pilot duties to Isaacman, who was once a NASA astronaut candidate.
SpaceX and the crew planned a full dress-rehearsal of launch-day activities at the Cape on Sunday night, to be followed by a final "static" test firing of the rocket's engines, organizers said.
Inspiration4 officials stress that the mission is more than a joyride.
Once in orbit, the crew will perform medical experiments with "potential applications for human health on Earth and during future spaceflights," the group said in media materials.
Image source: India Today