Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Inspiration4 is On Orbit

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 space.  According 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 Ars Technica)

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 scientific experiments on orbit.  

From SpaceX's 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.




  1. Oh, sure, blame it on the Typo Munster, yeah...

    Saw the video and it looked like perfect weather and darkness for watching a launch. Dammit, wish I still lived in that area.

    The only complaint I have is I wish they had an ongoing video feed from either the outside or in the cabin or both. Pooooo... I wanna watch! Pooooo...

    And, to dig it in, in one shot, Musk upstaged Dr. Evil and the Rock-Star-looking-guy. I am so totally surprised that Bezos didn't sue to stop this trip.

  2. Beans, give him a little time. He has to figure an angle.

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