KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – SpaceX launched four civilians from Kennedy Space Center Wednesday night, marking a first in human spaceflight.
What sets this launch apart: None of the Inspiration4 mission crew have undergone NASA astronaut training. Billionaire businessman Jared Isaacman purchased a ride from SpaceX and through a fundraising campaign for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and a national competition filled the other three seats on the Dragon spacecraft. The rest of the crew include St. Jude physicians assistant Hayley Arceneaux, geoscience professor Dr. Sian Proctor and aerospace engineer Chris Sembroski.
Launch details: The launch window opened at 8:02 p.m. Wednesday and ran until 1:13 a.m. Thursday. There was a 90% chance weather will be favorable for launch, according to the 45th Weather Squadron.
The mission profile: A Falcon 9 rocket will liftoff carrying the Dragon Resciliance spacecraft to orbit, sending it on a trajectory beyond the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station. After orbiting Earth for three days, the crew will return home splashing down off Florida’s coast.
Learn more about the crew here and why this mission is different from other human spaceflights, even those by other private companies.
Here’s a timeline of what the future astronauts will be doing prior to liftoff on launch day and what happens after the Dragon spacecraft makes it into orbit.
Follow live updates from Kennedy Space Center and along the Space Coast below:
8:02 p.m, LIFTOFF, Go Falcon, Go Dragon!
Four every day people just launched to space via a Falcon 9 rocket. The liftoff was beautiful, into a clear sky and the booster separation put on a light show in the sky that could be seen all over Central Florida.
Cheers could be heard all around the launchpad 39A press site where several launch viewing parties were hosted by SpaceX, St. Jude and Shift4Payment.
7:45 p.m. LOX loading
The Falcon 9 fueling continues with liquid oxygen. Conditions around launchpad 39A could not be better right now. It’s a calm Florida evening.
7:24 p.m. The launch escape system is armed
Falcon 9 is now “Go” for fuel loading after the launch escape system was armed.
The SpaceX team has left the launch tower. Next, SpaceX will arm the Dragon spacecraft launch escape system. Should anything go wrong during the liftoff, this automatic system would send the spacecraft away from the rocket and land in the Atlantic Ocean. This system needs to be armed before SpaceX begins fueling the Falcon 9 rocket.
6:35 Keeping an eye on weather
SpaceX engineer John Insprucker said teams are closely watching the weather around the pad. There are four opportunities to launch within the 5-hour window, according to Insprucker. If liftoff doesn’t happen at 8:02 p.m. the window extends until after 1 a.m. Thursday.
There is more flexibility with this liftoff window than normal human spaceflights because the spacecraft won’t be docking at the International Space Station. A launch to the ISS is an instantaneous window. The Inspiration4 crew will orbit the Earth for 3 days before returning for a splashdown landing.
6 p.m. Final inspections and hatch close
The SpaceX team is going over the capsule and looking for any possible “foreign debris” that might prevent a tight seal on the hatch close. After a check, the hatch will be closed to the Dragon capsule.
5:30 p.m. Crew are now into the capsule
The four crew members are now in their spacecraft seats and are going through communication checks with SpaceX. Their seats will be rotated into launch position now.
The Inspiration4 crew are at the launch tower and making their up to the top where they will walk across the crew access arm and board the Dragon spacecraft.
A little more than 3 hours to launch the soon-to-be astronauts are getting suited up in the SpaceX suit-up room before riding in Teslas to the launchpad.
The crew are (of course) riding in Teslas to launchpad 39A pic.twitter.com/8ZUOHND8M1— Emilee Speck (@EMSpeck) September 15, 2021
Inspiration4 tweeted Elon Musk greeted them before they left to the launchpad.
The Inspiration4 crew arrived to the launchpad and will begin suiting up.
#SpaceX #Inspiration4 crew has arrived at launch pad 39a and will begin suiting up. Moments earlier, @news6wkmg records the Teslas driving by @NASAKennedy press site. @SpaceX said @DrSianProctor and @ArceneauxHayley were in one car, @rookisaacman and @ChrisSembroski in the other. pic.twitter.com/SCnYADPVdF— James Sparvero (@News6James) September 15, 2021
Latest timeline for events leading up to the launch of Inspiration4.
F9/I4: Crew boarding is expected to begin around 5:27pm; the hatch should be closed by around 6:07pm with propellant loading beginning at 7:27pm at the L-minus 35-minute mark— William Harwood (@cbs_spacenews) September 15, 2021
The Inspiration4 crew was sent off before they made their way to Launch Complex 39A.
Crew send off before they make their way to Launch Complex 39A pic.twitter.com/pa5pXaAdNm— SpaceX (@SpaceX) September 15, 2021
About an hour ago Inspiration4 tweeted, calling for people to support St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. A fundraiser for the hospital was part of the crew selection process. The tweet shows off a custom license plate for the Tesla SUV that will carry them to the launch pad.
SpaceX tweeted saying all systems and weather are looking good for launch.
SpaceX tweeted this amazing photo 12 hours ago, ahead of tonight’s historic Inspiration4 launch.
ClickOrlando.com will offer as many as 10 livestreams, along with other cameras, for the launch of Inspiration4.
Emilee Speck, Erik von Ancken, James Sparvero and others will be live at Kennedy Space Center for the launch.
Hayley Arceneaux tweets about the support she’s received as she prepares for the historic Inspiration4 mission.
I want to thank everyone for all the support, encouragement, and love. And thank you to @stjude for being the reason I’m here today.— Hayley Arceneaux (@ArceneauxHayley) September 15, 2021
This is for everyone who’s ever been through something difficult, and I know we all have. Hold onto hope because there WILL be better days 💕 pic.twitter.com/oxIUq5hxUz