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The Inspiration4 crew in their SpaceX spacesuits, from left: Chris Sembroski, Dr. Sian Proctor, Jared Isaacman, and Hayley Arceneaux

John Kraus / Inspiration4

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — Elon Musk’s SpaceX is set to make history with a launch of four civilians in what would be the first full crew of nonprofessional astronauts to fly to space.

The mission, known as Inspiration4, is scheduled to lift off Wednesday night, with a five-hour window that opens at 8:02 p.m. ET.

The mission is the creation of SpaceX and billionaire entrepreneur Jared Isaacman, founder and CEO of Shift4 Payments. Isaacman purchased the multiday flight from SpaceX for an undisclosed fee, with the goal of raising awareness and funding for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“This is significant and historic because it’s going to be the highest that any humans have gone into orbit since the Hubble [Space Telescope] servicing missions,” SpaceX senior director of human spaceflight Benji Reed told reporters Tuesday. “Another historic part for SpaceX is that this will be the first time that we have three [Dragon capsules] in orbit.”

Isaacman and the Inspiration4 team have worked with SpaceX to train since announcing the flight in February. He noted that the crew on Tuesday met with company leadership — including Musk, who “gave us his assurances again that the entire leadership team is solely focused on this mission.”

Asked how he felt with less than 24 hours to liftoff, Isaacman said he had “no jitters, excited to get going.”

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule was developed with heavy investment from NASA, which has flown 10 of its professional astronauts on the spacecraft. While the space agency has comparatively minimal involvement in the Inspiration4 launch, NASA director of commercial spaceflight Phil McAlister told CNBC that private missions were one of the goals set when contributing government funds to SpaceX’s vehicle.

“We are seeing a sort of renaissance in commercial orbital human space transportation,” McAlister said. “For the first time in human history, you can go to a private company and purchase a ticket to orbit. You’ve never been able to do that; historically, you had to go to a government agency.”

One of the key factors for launching on Wednesday night remains the temperamental Florida weather, which will affect the timing of liftoff and the capsule’s splashdown a few days later.

“We look at not only the launch weather but we have to look at the return weather,” Reed said.

The U.S. Space Force’s 45th Space Wing forecast that the weather has a 80% probability of being clear to launch during Wednesday’s five-hour window. If SpaceX decides to postpone the launch, the next available opportunity would be Thursday.

SpaceX will broadcast steady live coverage of the launch, from four hours before liftoff to until the spacecraft reaches orbit.

The crew

Hayley Arceneaux, left, and Jared Isaacman walk out and board the Tesla Model Xs that will take them to the launchpad during a launch rehearsal on September 12, 2021.

John Kraus / Inspiration4

Isaacman gathered a unique group of individuals for the mission through three ways: from St. Jude’s staff, through an entrepreneurial competition, and via a charity lottery.

Jared Isaacman boards a U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fighter jet during a flight on April 9, 2021.

John Kraus / Inspiration4

Isaacman, the Inspiration4 commander, founded his payment processing company in 1999 when he was 16. He’s also an avid pilot, with a variety of ratings in commercial and military jets. He has flown in more than 100 airshows and is co-founder of Draken International, a private aerospace company that helps train pilots for the U.S. military.

Hayley Arceneaux takes a look at the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket that will carry the crew to orbit.

John Kraus / Inspiration4

Hayley Arceneaux, a cancer survivor and now a physician assistant at St. Jude, is the mission’s medical officer.

She survived osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, at 10 years old and will be the first person to fly in space with a prosthetic body part — as a significant portion of her leg is metal. At 29, Arceneaux will also become the youngest American to fly in space.

“From a medical officer perspective, I’m so excited about the medical research that we’re going to be doing — we’re going to be collecting a lot of swabs to learn about the microbiome, how that changes in flight; we’re going to be performing ultrasounds to evaluate for fluid shifts; as well as performance and cognitive tests and studying radiation effects of going to our high altitude,” Arceneaux told reporters before the launch.

Dr. Sian Proctor during fighter jet training in Montana on August 8, 2021.

John Kraus / Inspiration4

Sian Proctor is the Inspiration4 pilot, and the joined the crew after winning an online business competition through Isaacman’s company.

She is a geoscientist and science communication specialist, with a passion for space exploration that extends…



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Here is what you should know

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