Aerospace company SpaceX has launched its first all-civilian crew into orbit that took off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, US state of Florida onboard a rocket ship, marking a milestone in the space tourism industry.
SpaceX said that the mission will aim for an orbital altitude of 575km above Earth, higher than the International Space Station or Hubble Space Telescope. If the said altitude is achieved, it will be the farthest any human will have flown from Earth since the end of NASA’s Apollo moon program in 1972.
The company said that if the Crew Dragon achieves the targeted elevation from the earth, it will be able to circle the globe once every 90 minutes at a speed of some 27,360 kilometres per hour, which roughly equates to 22 times the speed of sound.
Mission officials said that the trip, dubbed Inspiration4, is expected to last about three days from launch to the planned splashdown in the Atlantic. They said that the mission was the first fight into orbit without professional astronauts.
A SpaceX webcast of the launch showed billionaire e-commerce executive Jared Isaacman along with his chosen crewmates Sian Proctor, Hayley Arceneaux, and Chris Sembroski buckled into the pressurised cabin of the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule called Resilience.
The capsule blasted off on top of SpaceX’s reusable two-stage Falcon 9 rockets. 12 minutes into the ascend, Falcon 9 rocket separated from the Dragon capsule.
The landmark mission is a realisation of SpaceX owner Elon Musk’s dream of a new orbital tourism business that he imagined back in 2002 when he founded the company.
Mission commander Isaacman paid an undisclosed sum to Musk for the space ride; however, Time magazine has valued the ticket price for all four seats at $200m. Isaacman took on the mission to raise awareness and support for one of his favourite causes; a top-notch paediatric cancer centre named St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.
SpaceX’s rival companies in space travel namely Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin have also unveiled their own private astronaut services earlier this summer. Both companies’ billionaire owners Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos have already taken a trip to space in suborbital flights, which lasted for minutes, seem like miniature adventures in comparison with Inspiration4’s spaceflight journey.
SpaceX remains the most prominent player in the commercial spaceflight market as the company has already provided services to NASA by launching numerous cargo payloads and astronauts to the International Space Station.