KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – Four non-professional astronauts arrived at Kennedy Space Center Thursday ahead of their SpaceX rocket launch next week, which will mark the first time a human spaceflight from Florida will not have a single NASA astronaut onboard.
SpaceX was charted by billionaire businessman Jared Isaacman to launch the Inspiration4 mission on a Falcon 9 rocket sending a special-edition Crew Dragon spacecraft on a three-day orbit of Earth. Three other civilians joining Isaacman just learned of their spaceflight less than a year ago, including St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital physician Hayley Arcenauex, college geology professor Dr. Sian Proctor and aerospace engineer Chris Sembroski.
While Arcenauex was chosen by her employer after Isaacman approached the research hospital about a fundraising effort to raise $200 million for St. Jude, Proctor and Sembroski had a different path to space. Sembroski entered a raffle that was kicked off via a Super Bowl ad in February and Proctor used Isaacman’s Shift4Payment platform to raise funds for St. Jude with her art and poetry. She was then selected by a panel of judges for the mission.
After completing their final round of training at SpaceX headquarters in California, the four future astronauts traveled to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center landing on the old space shuttle runway Thursday. The crew arrived via a fleet of fighter jets touching down on the Launch and Landing Facility operated by Space Florida.
Unlike the fanfare usually associated with a NASA astronaut’s arrival, the news media were not able to attend the Inspiration4 crew arrival.
SpaceX still needs to roll out the Falcon 9 to the launchpad for a static fire of the rocket’s nine Merlin engines. From the Kennedy Space Center launchpad 39A press site, the rocket was not visible as of Thursday around noon.
The launch forecast by the 45th Weather Squadron has not been issued yet and the final launch window has also not been announced by SpaceX. The company plans to narrow the 24-hour window down to five hours a few days ahead of liftoff. On Friday, SpaceX announced it will launch after 8 p.m. on Sept. 15.
Because this is not a NASA mission and the spacecraft will not be docking at the International Space Station, SpaceX has made a custom launch profile and has more flexibility to launch without some of NASA’s weather constraints. A launch to the ISS is also an instantaneous window.
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