SpaceX is set to launch the first fully private crew of passengers to space on Wednesday. The Inspiration4 crew, three ordinary people and a billionaire philanthropist who’s funding the mission, will board SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule on Wednesday afternoon and lift off at 8:02PM ET atop a Falcon 9 rocket, speeding toward an orbit 360 miles above the ground — farther from Earth than the International Space Station.
If all goes according to plan, the mission will mark a new milestone in the budding commercial space industry, where companies owned by billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have been racing to normalize space travel for people other than government astronauts. The mission also aims to raise $200 million for St. Jude Children’s Hospital to help fund cancer research.
Jared Isaacman, a trained pilot and the wealthy founder of a payment processing company, will helm the mission as its commander. He bought four seats on Crew Dragon and picked three fellow passengers: Hayley Arceneaux, a cancer survivor and St. Jude physician assistant, was tapped for the mission through St. Jude. Sian Proctor, a geology professor and former NASA astronaut candidate, won a video contest hosted by Isaacman’s company, Shift4, for her seat. And Christopher Sembroski, a data engineer at Lockheed Martin, is filling the seat reserved for one of the thousands who donated to St. Jude; his ticket was passed on to him by a friend who won.
What time is liftoff?
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, with Crew Dragon on top, will lift off at 8:02PM ET from the company’s 39A launchpad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The rocket’s first stage booster will detach from its second stage booster and Crew Dragon to make a return landing on a barge in the Atlantic ocean about 10 minutes since lifting off. Meanwhile, Crew Dragon will zoom toward its orbit, detaching from the Falcon 9’s second stage booster around 8:14PM ET to begin a series of thruster firings that’ll scoot the capsule higher and higher over the next hour or so.
How to watch
SpaceX will have a livestream on YouTube, as will Netflix, which has been producing a documentary series on the Inspiration4 mission with Time. It’s unclear if there will be any livestreams of the crew while they’re in orbit for three days. The final episode of Netflix’s Inspiration4 series, set for release on September 30th, will center on the crew’s experience in space and show footage of their activities.