Just got in from watching the launch of SpaceX's Inspiration4 mission.
It was one of those launches where it's well past sunset here, but the sun was
still up by the time they got up 50 or 60 miles. Those conditions give
us a wonderful light show here on the ground. The cone of well-lit
exhaust plume extended perhaps 45 degrees behind the second stage and we could
see the cold gas thrusters keeping the first stage oriented as it approached
its return landing on recovery drone Just Read The Instructions.
This mission has been referred to as an all-civilian mission but that's not
terribly unique; many civilians (that is, not military members) have been to
Harvard University's Jonathan McDowell, there have previously been 15
all-civilian orbital flights, beginning with the Soyuz TMA-3 mission in 2003.
The most recent civilian flight was SpaceX's Crew-2 mission. (H/T to
What makes Inspiration4 truly unique is being the first completely private sector mission. The four crew members are all private sector-people, and the company launching the mission is pure private sector. Every other orbital human spaceflight before has been flown for or by a government agency. If there had been one or two private citizens on board, they were strictly passengers along for the ride.
Oh, by the way, Inspiration4 is headed for the highest orbit of any manned vehicle from America since the Shuttle missions to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. Inspiration4 is set to orbit at 575km altitude. The HST is at 540 km or just about 22 miles lower. It's the highest orbit a Crew Dragon capsule has ever been to; they ordinarily go to the International Space Station at 420 km.
They will orbit at 575 km or 357 miles for 72 hours. The purposes are
described as to
raise $200 million for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
for pediatric cancers and to conduct various other
current missions page, Inspiration4 is commanded by Jared
Isaacman, founder and CEO of Shift4 Payments and an accomplished pilot and
adventurer. Joining him are Medical Officer Hayley Arceneaux, a physician
assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital® and pediatric cancer
survivor; Mission Specialist Chris Sembroski, an Air Force veteran and
aerospace data engineer; and Mission Pilot Dr. Sian Proctor, a geoscientist,
entrepreneur, and trained pilot. Jared Isaacman paid for all of crew.
I haven't read exactly what Isaacman paid for this privilege, but estimates for unmanned Falcon 9 flights with reused boosters run in $20 million range and up. I'm guessing anything "man rated" is significantly more.
"We know that the four of us are about to have an experience that only about 600 or so have had before us," Isaacman said during a news conference on Tuesday. "We're very focused on making sure that we give back every bit of that time that we get on orbit for the people and the causes that matter most to us."
At a ballpark price of $50 million, this isn't the beginning of orbital tourism for the masses, but it's still an historic launch.
Inspiration4's Crew Dragon on Pad 39A. SpaceX photo.
EDIT: 9/15/21 10:09PM The typo monster crept in and misspelled a word after it was posted.