How to watch SpaceX launch the Inspiration4 mission with its all-civilian crew

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CBS News 15 September, 2021 - 04:15pm 28 views

How long is the inspiration 4 mission?

Here's what to expect. CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX will launch its first all-civilian crew on a three-day journey around the Earth in what will be a historic step for private space travel. Space.comSpaceX's all-civilian Inspiration4 mission launches today. Here's what to expect.

When does the spacex rocket launch?

Rocket Launch: NET October 31, 2021, TBA | SpaceX Falcon 9 Crew-3. Four astronauts are set to launch aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket, headed for the International Space Station. Learn more about this next Commercial Crew launch. kennedyspacecenter.comRocket Launch Schedule

Billionaire Jared Isaacman, who chartered the mission, will be joined by Chris Sembroski, an aerospace engineer; Sian Proctor, an artist-educator who will become only the fourth Black woman to fly in space; and Hayley Arceneaux, a childhood cancer survivor who was treated at St. Jude and now works at the hospital. At age 29, Arceneaux will be the youngest American to fly in space.

Blastoff from historic pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center is targeted for 8:02 p.m. EDT, kicking off a 12-minute climb to a 360-mile-high orbit, 100 miles above the International Space Station. It's the highest anyone will have flown since the last shuttle mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope in 2009.

From that lofty perch, Isaacman and his Inspiration4 crewmates will enjoy unrivaled 360-degree views of Earth and deep space through a clear, custom-built dome, or cupola, in the nose of the capsule that has replaced the docking mechanism used for NASA flights to the space station.

The fully automated flight will mark SpaceX's 125th Falcon 9 launch, its 22nd so far this year and its fourth piloted Crew Dragon mission. 

The capsule is equipped with a "full envelope" abort system to instantly propel the spacecraft away from a malfunctioning booster, resulting in an emergency splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean. SpaceX did not provide details about its crew rescue plans, but says adequate safeguards are in place.

Scott "Kidd" Poteet, an Inspiration4 mission director and former Air Force Thunderbirds pilot, said Isaacman and company are as prepared as any professional astronauts.

"This training has made them 100 percent prepared for any contingency that they're going to experience on orbit," he said.

"They have gone through six months of the same training that any NASA astronaut would" including centrifuge runs, rides in the fighter jets Isaacman flies as a hobby, months of classroom study and a 30-hour practice run in a Crew Dragon simulator.

Asked if anyone had any trepidation about riding a rocket to space, Isaacman said SpaceX founder Elon Musk gave the crew "his assurances that the entire leadership team is solely focused on this mission and is very confident. And that obviously inspires a lot of confidence for us as well. But no jitters, excited to get going."

Added Arceneaux: "Any jitters are the good kind."

While billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos made headlines earlier this summer when they spent a few minutes in weightlessness during up-and-down sub-orbital flights, the Inspiration4 crew will spend three days orbiting the Earth before returning to splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean Saturday night.

Isaacman said the flight marked an "inspiring" first step toward opening up the high frontier to civilian use.

"We set out from the start to deliver a very inspiring message, certainly what can be done up in space and the possibilities there, but also what we can accomplish here on Earth," he said.

That included "the largest fundraising effort in the history of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, acknowledging the real responsibilities we have here on Earth in order to earn the right to make progress up in space," he said. "And I feel like we're well on our way to achieving that objective."

The crew plans an in-flight event with patients at St. Jude and will carry out a battery of medical tests and experiments throughout the mission, including use of an ultrasound device to help measure headward fluid shifts caused by the onset of weightlessness.

Fluid shifts, interactions with the neuro-vestibular, or balance, system and other reactions trigger space motion sickness in about half the astronauts who fly in space, an uncomfortable malady that typically fades away after two to three days as the body adapts to the new environment.

"Space sickness is one of the interesting things that this mission is going to explore, just like all the NASA missions that have gone before," said Todd Ericson, a former Air Force test pilot who is helping manage the Inspiration4 mission for Isaacman.

"Each person reacts differently," he said. "Fighter pilots get as sick as non fighter pilots and vice versa. The medical team at SpaceX has a lot of experience in this area ... they've got a regimen in place to minimize that and then treat it if it actually gets severe."

Hayley Arceneaux, the crew's medical officer, was treated for bone cancer at St. Jude when she was just 10 years old and is now a physician assistant at the hospital. At 29, she will become the youngest American to ever fly in orbit and the first person to fly in space with an implanted prothesis.

"I'm really honored to be representing kids with cancer and childhood cancer survivors," she said on the eve of launch. "Everyone in life has been dealt a certain hand, everyone's had to overcome something. And I hope that those who are in the process of overcoming something can can look to me and see the importance of holding on to hope, because I firmly believe that there are better days and you don't know what's around the corner."

Jared Isaacman dropped out of high school at age 16 and founded Shift4 Payments, a company that now processes payments for more than 200,000 restaurants and other retail outlets. In his spare time, he flies high-performance fighter jets in a fleet he owns that's used in part to train military pilots.

After deciding to mount a mission benefitting St. Jude, Isaacman chose Arceneaux to join him and set up an online contest to select two more crewmates. He kicked in $100 million of the charity drive's $200 million goal.

The winners were Sian Proctor, a 51-year-old science teacher, one-time NASA astronaut finalist, private pilot and artist; and Chris Sembroski, a Lockheed Martin aerospace engineer who was given his seat by a contest winner who declined to fly.

"There have been three Black female astronauts that have made it to space," Proctor said. "Knowing that I'm going to be the fourth means that I have this opportunity to ... inspire the next generation of women of color and girls of color and really get them to think about reaching for the stars."

Proctor plans to paint in space, "thinking about the fluids and the dynamics of watercolors and pulling paint from the palette and putting it on to the paper, but also pens and markers and really trying to show my students what that looks like and how that process is happening.

"I'm excited to see what not-so-great masterpiece that I will be making. It'll be a fun art experiment up there."

Sembroski is taking a ukulele to orbit, saying "I apologize for any ears that are listening intently. But I'll give it my best shot."

"It's going to be fun," he said. "It's like an extended camping trip, you know, you're in a camper van with some of your closest friends for three days."

But they will not be able to step outside their "camper" 360 miles above the Earth, and will face a "couple of unique challenges, you know, maintaining privacy here and there," he said of the capsule's lack of an enclosed bathroom.

He said the Inspiration4 crew got a few tips from NASA astronauts who have flown aboard the Crew Dragon, "and we'll let you know more about how successful they were when we come back."

Bill Harwood has been covering the U.S. space program full-time since 1984, first as Cape Canaveral bureau chief for United Press International and now as a consultant for CBS News. He covered 129 space shuttle missions, every interplanetary flight since Voyager 2's flyby of Neptune and scores of commercial and military launches. Based at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Harwood is a devoted amateur astronomer and co-author of "Comm Check: The Final Flight of Shuttle Columbia."

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Tips for space tourists from NASA astronauts

Reuters 15 September, 2021 - 06:10pm

Inspiration4 | Launch

CBS News 15 September, 2021 - 06:10pm

SpaceX Live Updates: Inspiration4 Astronauts Await Their Window to Launch

The New York Times 15 September, 2021 - 02:20pm

One hour until liftoff. Countdown continues to proceed smoothly. Weather looks really good. There are hardly any clouds in the sky.

Once the craft reached the top of their trajectories, they stopped, and then fell back down. Virgin’s space plane glided to a landing. The New Shepard capsule was slowed by parachutes. Both ended up back on the ground, almost where they started, not long after they left.

By contrast, to reach orbit and stay there, a spacecraft must accelerate to a velocity of 17,500 miles per hour. That requires a much bigger rocket and is more dangerous.

“We set out from the start to deliver a very inspiring message,” Mr. Isaacman said during a news conference on Tuesday, “and chose to do that through an interesting crew selection process.”

As commander for Inspiration4, Mr. Isaacman fills the leadership seat.

Mr. Isaacman gave two of the four seats to St. Jude. The hope seat was earmarked for a St. Jude health care worker, and hospital officials chose Ms. Arceneaux, who quickly said yes to the offer.

Another seat, generosity, was raffled off to raise money for the hospital. Mr. Sembroski entered, donating $50, but he did not win the sweepstakes, which helped raise $13 million for St. Jude. A friend of his, though, did — an old college buddy from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida. The friend, who remains anonymous, decided not to go to space but, knowing about Mr. Sembroski’s enthusiasm, transferred the prize to him.

“I think that just really puts me in a very special spot,” Mr. Sembroski said, “where not only do I feel very lucky to be here but I have a huge responsibility to pay that forward and show that generosity towards others, and to bring that message to everyone else.”

The last seat, prosperity, was the prize in a contest run by Mr. Isaacman’s company, Shift4 Payments. Contestants used the company’s software to design an online store and then tweeted videos describing their entrepreneurial and space dreams. (Using the software, Dr. Proctor started selling her space-related artwork, and in her video, she read a poem that she wrote.)

Leak checks confirm that the seal around the hatch is good.

The SpaceX technicians have to make sure that the seal is tight with no debris trapped in there.

Even closing the door of the capsule is a slow process.

SpaceX is releasing balloons to measure high-altitude winds. So far, the weather looks great.

Considering that they’ll soon be traveling at 17,500 miles per hour, there’s a lot of sitting around for now. Still more than 2 hours until liftoff.

“If you’re going to accomplish all those great things out in space, all that progress, then you have an obligation to do some considerable good here on Earth, like making sure you conquer childhood cancer along the way,” he said.

So far, more than $130 million has been raised including the $100 million that Mr. Isaacman is personally donating to St. Jude.

“We are elated with where we are from a fund-raising perspective,” said Richard C. Shadyac Jr., the president of ALSAC, the fund-raising organization for St. Jude. “I couldn’t be more pleased. We’ll continue to strive for that $200 million goal.”

The capsule seats rotated upward so the astronauts are in a more horizontal position to absorb the forces of liftoff. They’re about 6 minutes ahead of schedule.

All four astronauts are now buckled into their seats as technicians prepare to seal them into the Crew Dragon capsule ahead of launch.

The four astronauts have ascended the launch tower and are beginning to board the Crew Dragon capsule, two at a time.

The Inspiration4 crew, all suited up, have walked back out to the Teslas and are getting in for the ride to the launchpad.

This flight path makes Inspiration4 more like some of NASA’s Mercury and Gemini missions during the 1960s that preceded the Apollo missions to the moon. It is also reminiscent of space shuttle flights before the construction of the space station.

Because Inspiration4 is not going to the space station, that allowed for a major modification to Resilience. SpaceX removed the docking port from the top of the capsule and installed a glass dome that will allow the crew to get a 360-degree view of space. It will be the largest contiguous window ever to be flown in space. There is also a camera that will take pictures of the crew members peering into space.

The weather forecast has improved, according to the U.S. Space Force, which determines whether it is safe to launch. It now projects a 10 percent probability of violating weather rules, rather than 20 percent from an earlier forecast.

The Inspiration4 crew is riding in Tesla cars to the launchpad. They’ll get into their spacesuits at a SpaceX support room there, not the NASA facility where NASA astronauts get ready. That’s part of the shift from a government mission to a private one.

It’s the exact same system that is used to take NASA astronauts to the International Space Station. Indeed, the capsule they are riding in, named Resilience, was used for a NASA mission that launched in November last year. It returned to Earth in May and was refurbished for the Inspiration4 mission.

The Crew Dragon launched successfully on Saturday.

If the schedule is similar to SpaceX’s earlier NASA astronaut flights, then about three and a half hours before the launch, the crew will begin donning their customized SpaceX spacesuits. Once technicians have confirmed the suits are properly fitted, the four astronauts will say goodbye to their families and be transported to the launchpad.

Approximately two and a half hours before the flight — around 5:30 p.m. Eastern time — the crew will board the Crew Dragon capsule. SpaceX technicians will then complete a number of procedures before sealing them inside the spacecraft, a process that could take about an hour.

About 45 minutes before the scheduled launch time, SpaceX will start loading propellent into the rocket and begin making final checks of the spacecraft’s systems and the weather to decide whether it is safe for the mission to launch.

Once the rocket launches, the capsule will begin a series of steps to be lifted to orbit, including separating from the rocket’s first and second stages. In the hour or so that follows, the spacecraft will fire its thrusters, setting it on the course it will follow until the astronauts return to Earth on Saturday.

After half a year, Mr. Isaacman figured out a new way to handle payment processing, and in 1999 he founded his own company in his parents’ basement. That evolved into Shift4 Payments, which went public in June 2020.

Mr. Isaacman started flying as a hobby, learning to pilot more and more advanced aircraft including military fighter jets. In 2012, he started a second company called Draken International, which owns fighter jets and provides training for pilots in the United States military. He has since sold Draken but still flies fighter jets for fun.

Last year, Mr. Isaacman wanted to invest in SpaceX, which remains a privately held company, but missed the latest investment offering by the company. Mr. Isaacman tried to convince SpaceX officials of his enthusiasm by telling them he wanted to buy a trip to orbit someday. That led to conversations that resulted in Mr. Isaacman undertaking the Inspiration4 mission. He is serving as the mission’s commander.

Hayley Arceneaux, 29, is a physician assistant at St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis. Almost two decades ago, Ms. Arceneaux, who grew up in the small town of St. Francisville, La., was a patient at St. Jude when bone cancer was diagnosed in her left leg, just above the knee. Ms. Arceneaux went through chemotherapy, an operation to install prosthetic leg bones and long sessions of physical therapy.

“When I grow up, I want to be a nurse at St. Jude,” she said in a video shown at the ceremony in 2003. “I want to be a mentor to patients. When they come in, I’ll say, ‘I had that when I was little, and I’m doing good.’”

Last year, Ms. Arceneaux was hired by St. Jude. She works with children with leukemia and lymphoma.

Ms. Arceneaux could become the youngest American ever to travel to orbit. She will also be the first person with a prosthetic body part to go to space. She will be the health officer for the mission.

Sian Proctor, 51, is a community college professor from Tempe, Ariz.

Dr. Proctor, who is African American and holds a doctorate in science education, had come close to becoming an astronaut the old-fashioned way. She said that in 2009, she was among 47 finalists whom NASA selected from 3,500 applications. The space agency chose nine new astronauts that year. Dr. Proctor was not one of them.

She applied twice more and was not even among the finalists.

She still pursued her space dreams in other ways. In 2013, Dr. Proctor was one of six people who lived for four months in a small building on the side of a Hawaiian volcano, part of an effort financed by NASA to study the isolation and stresses of a long trip to Mars.

She will be the pilot on the Inspiration4 mission, the first Black woman to serve as the pilot of a spacecraft.

Christopher Sembroski, 42, of Everett, Wash., works in data engineering for Lockheed Martin. During college, Mr. Sembroski worked as a counselor at Space Camp, an educational program in Huntsville, Ala., that offers children and families a taste of what life as an astronaut is like. He also volunteered for ProSpace, a nonprofit advocacy group that pushed to open space to more people.

Mr. Sembroski described himself as “that guy behind the scenes, that’s really helping other people accomplish their goals and to take center stage.”

He’ll be the mission specialist for Inspiration4, and responsible for certain tasks during the mission.

If the flight can’t launch during that five-hour time frame, SpaceX could try again on Thursday beginning at 8:05 p.m. Eastern time.

The launch will be streamed live by SpaceX on its YouTube channel, and also by Netflix on its YouTube channel. Or you can watch it in the video player embedded in our coverage here.

Inspiration4 Launch: Locations where you can watch in Central Florida

USA TODAY 15 September, 2021 - 06:43am

The latest breaking updates, delivered straight to your email inbox.

Wednesday marks a highly anticipated launch for space travel. SpaceX is preparing to launch the very first all-civilian crew.

The Inspiration4 mission is sending four regular people, not commercial astronauts, into space. There is one billionaire on board who is leading the mission, Jared Isaacman, who made his name by developing the go-to credit card processing service.

Unlike the recent billionaire flights of Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson that went into suborbit for a few minutes, Inspiration4 is going the distance, beyond even the International Space Station for three days. The first mission of its kind is launching from Florida’s Space Coast.

The crew also has a mission in space and on the ground: raising money and attention for St. Jude cancer research for children.

In fact, one of the crew members, Hayley Arceneaux, is a St. Jude’s cancer survivor herself and is now back as a physician’s assistant helping children with leukemia. She is set to become the first person in space with a prosthesis.

Recently, the Inspiration4 team said it will not happen any earlier than 8 p.m. on Wednesday night. The launch window is set to open at 8:02 p.m.

South side of New Smyrna Beach (Canaveral National Seashore)

Bethune Beach, 6656 S. Atlantic Ave.

Jetty Park Beach and Pier, 400 Jetty Park Road, Port Canaveral. (There’s a charge to park.)

Playalinda Beach, 1000 Playalinda Beach Road, Canaveral National Seashore.

Space View Park, 8 Broad St., Titusville

Alan Shepard Park, 299 E. Cocoa Beach Causeway, Cocoa Beach

Cocoa Beach Pier, 401 Meade Ave. (Parking fee varies.)

Lori Wilson Park, 1400 N. Atlantic Ave., Cocoa Beach

Alma Lee Loy Bridge in Vero Beach

Merrill Barber Bridge in Vero Beach

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