SpaceX Successfully Launches First Private Passenger Flight into Space

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by Tolu Ajiboye · 3 min read
SpaceX Successfully Launches First Private Passenger Flight into Space
Photo: Michelle Obama / Twitter

The recent SpaceX flight launched four private persons including one billionaire, setting a few new space travel records.

SpaceX launched four civilians, including a tech billionaire, into space on its first private flight, a three-day orbital excursion. Dubbed Inspiration4, the flight launched on Wednesday at 8:02 pm local time from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 

Propelling Inspiration4 was a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that attained an orbital height of 585 kilometers (364 miles) three hours later. Onboard were Jared Isaacman, a tech billionaire and space enthusiast, as well as three other American citizens without specialized astronaut training. They include pilot Sian Proctor, medical officer Hayley Arceneaux, and mission specialist Chris Sembroski. The crew is the first entirely nonprofessional crew to become astronauts. They will spend about three days in orbit before returning to base in Florida.

The flight took its four private passengers deeper into space than any other space flight. Furthermore, it also set a new altitude record for SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft – the name of the shuttle containing the passengers. The last flight to hold the record was the last Hubble telescope servicing mission in May 2009. The flight was aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis and orbited about 340 miles above Earth. Other milestones reached with the SpaceX expedition are the first black female pilot of spaceflight and the youngest US citizen to fly in space.

Director of NASA’s commercial spaceflight division, Phil McAlister remarked on the SpaceX expedition as a turning point in commercial space travel. “I really do see this as a renaissance in human space transportation,” he said before launch time. Also, SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell weighed in via a statement. She said the mission is “paving the way for a future where space is more accessible to all who wish to go.” Shotwell thanked the private crew for entrusting their safety to her company and making history with them.

SpaceX Private Flight Expected to Usher in More Spaceflights

The latest expedition is the first of several planned private spaceflights from Space Exploration Technologies Corp. going forward. The company plans to conduct the next cosmic trip in early 2022.

In addition to demonstrating the feasibility of commercial space travel, the expedition also aims to raise $200 million in charity. Private passenger Jared Isaacman says he will donate $100 million to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis Tennessee. This is in addition to the $200 million he is reportedly paying SpaceX for the flight. The tech billionaire was clearly into the trip and said “Punch it, SpaceX,” during the takeoff countdown. Isaacman, who is also the founder and CEO of payment processor Shift4Payments Inc., took on the role of mission commander.

The foursome spent nine months in preparation for the trip. They learned about Dragon’s systems, how to act in emergencies, and how to withstand high-gravity forces.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) did not play an active part in planning SpaceX’s trip. The former’s role was only limited to providing technical consultation and training assistance for the crew.

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