Elon Musk’s SpaceX this week will launch the next billionaire into space along with three other astro tourists in what is poised to be the first all-civilian crew to reach Earth’s orbit.
Jared Isaacman, the founder and CEO of e-commerce firm Shift4 Payments who’s also an accomplished jet pilot, will lead the trip, which will blast off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, spend three days in orbit and then splashdown somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean.
The 38-year-old Isaacman, who has an estimated net worth of $2.4 billion, paid an undisclosed sum to Musk’s SpaceX for the flight aboard the company’s Crew Dragon capsule atop a reusable Falcon 9 rocket.
The Dragon capsule is aiming for an altitude of 335 miles — about 75 miles higher than the International Space Station and on a level with the Hubble Space Telescope.
Hayley Arceneaux, Chris Sembroski and Dr. Sian Proctor will join Isaacman on the spaceflight.
Isaacman has promoted the mission, dubbed Inspiration4, as an opportunity to raise awareness and funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The tech mogul has pledged $100 million to the institute.
Arceneaux, 29, a bone cancer survivor turned St. Jude physician assistant, will serve as the mission’s “chief medical officer.”
Sembroski, 42, an Air Force veteran and aerospace data engineer who won a seat in a sweepstakes, will serve as mission specialist.
Proctor, 51, is a community college educator in Tempe, Arizona. She nabbed her ticket to space by winning a contest held by Isaacman’s Shift4Shop eCommerce platform that sought inspirational entrepreneurs worthy of being “elevated to the stars.”
Proctor is an analog astronaut whose father worked at the NASA tracking station during the Apollo missions.
Despite those honorary titles, the crew will not actually be responsible for operating the spacecraft, the company has said.
The four soon-to-be astronauts have been training for months since the flight crew was announced in March.
Preparation has involved “centrifuge training, Dragon simulations, observations of other SpaceX launch operations, Zero-G plane training, altitude training and additional classroom, simulation and medical testing,” Inspiration4 said in a press release.
Both the Dragon crew capsule and the reusable Falcon 9 rocket have flown before, according to Space.com. A backup launch date is set for Sept. 16.
The crew will orbit the Earth for three days before splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean.
“Inspiration4’s goal is to inspire humanity to support St. Jude here on earth while also seeing new possibilities for human spaceflight,” Isaacman said in March. “Each of these outstanding crew members embodies the best of humanity, and I am humbled to lead them on this historic and purposeful mission and the adventure of a lifetime.”
Last month, SpaceX sent a shipment of ants, avocados and a human-sized robotic arm to the seven astronauts at the International Space Station.
Wednesday’s launch will also mark Musk’s entrance into the billionaire space race, joining Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic in having launched civilians into space.
While Musk, unlike his billionaire rivals, won’t be going into space himself on this trip, the launch will last much longer and much deeper into space than that of his two rivals, which only lasted minutes in the air and barely breached the barrier to space.
Musk has previously mocked Bezos, with whom he’s locked in a heated legal battle over their space companies and access to government contracts, for Blue Origin’s failure to make it to orbit.
In an apparent reference to the fact that Blue Origin has not yet achieved orbit with any of its rockets, Musk tweeted in April, “Can’t get it up (to orbit) lol” in response to an article about Blue Origin challenging SpaceX’s winning of a government contract.
Musk later tweeted an image of Bezos with Blue Origin’s moon-lander prototype, which was edited to read, “blue balls.”