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In first, SpaceX to send all-civilian crew into Earth orbit

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon is seen sitting on Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center as it is prepared for the first completely private mission to fly into orbit in Cape Canaveral, Florida. (Photo: Agence France-Presse)
UNITED STATES — SpaceX is preparing to send the first all-civilian crew into Earth orbit Wednesday evening, capping a summer of private spaceflight with one of the most ambitious tourism missions to date.اضافة اعلان

A five-hour launch window for “Inspiration4” opens from 8:02 pm (0002 GMT Thursday), and weather conditions remain good with an 80 percent chance of launch, according to official forecasters.

A Falcon 9 rocket, with a Dragon capsule at its top, will blast off from the legendary launch complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Center in Florida, from where the Apollo 11 mission took off for the Moon.

The spaceship’s trajectory will take it to an altitude of 575 km, deeper into space than the International Space Station (ISS), and the furthest any humans have gone since the 2009 Hubble telescope maintenance mission.

After spending three days orbiting the globe, the four-person crew, all Americans, will splash down off the Florida coast.

The mission was paid for by Jared Isaacman, a 38-year-old high school dropout, founder of Shift4 Payments, and aviator.

SpaceX hasn’t disclosed what it cost him, but the price tag runs into tens of millions of dollars.

For the trip, Isaacman is bringing along three others selected through a competition.

Hayley Arceneaux, a pediatric cancer survivor, is a 29-year-old physician assistant. She will be the youngest American to go into orbit and the first person with a prosthesis, on a part of her femur.

Chris Sembroski, 42, is a US Air Force veteran who now works as an aerospace data engineer.

Sian Proctor, a 51-year-old geoscientist and educator, was almost selected to become an astronaut for NASA in 2009.
She will be only the fourth African-American woman to go to space.

Observation dome 

The mission’s stated goal is to represent a turning point in the democratization of space, by proving that the cosmos is accessible to people who have not been handpicked and trained for many years as astronauts.

For SpaceX, this is nothing less than a first step towards a multi-planetary humanity — founder and CEO Elon Musk’s ultimate vision.

The Dragon will be equipped, for the first time, with a cupola observation dome -- the largest ever space window — to take in the view. The dome replaces the usual mechanism used on Dragons to dock with the ISS.

Space tourism 

The space adventure bookends a summer marked by the battle of the billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos to reach the final frontier.

Branson, the Virgin Galactic founder, achieved the feat first, on July 11, and was followed by the Blue Origin boss nine days later.

But these flights only offered a few minutes of weightlessness. SpaceX’s mission is far more ambitious.

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