SpaceX launch - live: Inspiration4 latest updates as launch time approaches

·9-min read
Private Spaceflight Explainer (John Kraus)
Private Spaceflight Explainer (John Kraus)

Inspiration4, SpaceX’s all-private trip into orbit, is just hours from launch.

The launch window opens at 1am on Thursday morning UK time, or 8pm local eastern time. It is open for five hours, meaning that – and that it will be delayed if the team are not able to fit in that window.

After launch, the team will fly higher in orbit than any human since the Space Shuttle, spending three days in space conducting experiments and experiencing Earth at a distance.

They will then fall back down to Earth, landing in the ocean for a splashdown.

If the mission is a success, it will mark a major step forward for space tourism, and for Elon Musk and SpaceX’s plans to make it accessible to anyone with the money to fund a rocket and spacecraft to carry them to orbit.

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Automatic for the people

17:30 , Adam Smith

While on the craft, the astronauts will not have to directly pilot the spacecraft. The journey will predominantly be handled autonomously under the guidance of SpaceX on Earth.

This does present a greater risk, should an autonomous system fail, but also reveals the confidence SpaceX has in the abilities of its technology.

Before the mission, the crew will have spent months in classrooms and simulators to learn the systems aboard the spacecraft, training for emergencies, and experiencing g-force.

“There’s north of 60 procedures that range from normal contingency to emergency,” Isaacman told Time. “In a multi-day mission there is a lot of time for a lot of things to go wrong.”

Have non-astronauts gone into space before

17:00 , Adam Smith

Usually, it takes immense wealth to reach space. Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos recently achieved short suborbital flights, but others have gone before them.

From 2001 to 2009, seven people have paid upwards of $30 million per seat to go to the International Space Station on Russian Soyuz rockets, but many of these have been overseen by government agencies like Nasa.

“This is the first privately-operated orbital spaceflight to have all private citizens as its passengers,” spaceflight expert Jonathan McDowell from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics told MIT Technology Review. “Compared to the suborbital [flights], it’s so much more ambitious.”

“The first black female pilot of a spacecraft"

16:30 , Adam Smith

Dr Sian Proctor, one of the astronauts on the flight, has said that “it’s really special for me to hold” the title of pilot for the mission, “because I’m going to be the first black female pilot of a spacecraft.”

16:26 , Adam Smith

“It’s launch day"

16:01 , Adam Smith

SpaceX has just shared a photo of Jared Isaacman looking at the rocket

The Falcon 9 rocket

15:58 , Adam Smith

SpaceX will be using the Falcon 9 rocket to put the astronauts into orbit.

Falcon 9 is the first orbital-class rocket capable of reflight, and has since inspired other private space companies like Blue Origin to create their own reusable rockets.

With a Dragon spacecraft on top, the rocket measures 48.1 meters (157 feet) tall and is capable of producing one million pounds of thrust in a vacuum.

Inspiration4 mission about to launch

14:22 , Andrew Griffin

Everything is looking good for going to orbit so far, says SpaceX. Here’s the latest on where everything stands with just hours left until (planned) liftoff.

How do you prepare for a mission like Inspiration4?

13:27 , Andrew Griffin

Inspiration4 is a mission like no other: the first full, private, space tourism mission into orbit. But SpaceX hopes that it is just the beginning of more like it.

To ensure that’s the case – that the crew are safe and enjoy themselves – they had have to undergo pioneering training to match their pioneering mission. But what does that look like?

Here’s everything you need to know.

Will you be able to see SpaceX Crew Dragon as it circles the Earth?

13:17 , Andrew Griffin

You’ll be able to see the launch tonight, through SpaceX’s live stream. But will you be able to really see it, with your own eyes? Probably, although not very well.

That’s according to experts, who give you all the information you need to watch it in this article here.

12:20 , Andrew Griffin

As the sun rises on the day that will see them head to space, here’s the latest on Reuters on what’s going on with the crew:

The four would-be citizen astronauts poised to ride a SpaceX rocket ship around the globe as the first all-civilian crew launched into orbit said on Tuesday they were eager for liftoff on the eve of their flight, feeling only “the good kind” of jitters.

“I was just worried that this moment would never come in my life. Let’s get going, let’s do it,” said Sian Proctor, 51, a geoscience professor, artist and lifelong space enthusiast who was a 2009 finalist in NASA’s astronaut candidate program before she was cut.

Proctor also disclosed she and her flightmates received a telephone call from one of her personal heroes, former first lady Michelle Obama, wishing them well, an honor she said “would stay with me the rest of my life.”

The “Inspiration4” quartet are due for liftoff as early as 8 p.m. on Wednesday (0000 GMT) from launch complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, for an orbital flight expected to last about three days before splashdown.

Proctor and her crewmates - billionaire e-commerce executive and jet pilot Jared Isaacman, 38, physician assistant Hayley Arceneaux, 29, and aerospace data engineer Chris Sembroski, 42 - took reporters’ questions at a pre-launch briefing inside a SpaceX hangar a little more than 24 hours before launch time.

Behind them, visible in the distance through the hangar’s open doors, stood the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule designed to carry them to a targeted orbital altitude of 360 miles (575 km) over the Earth - higher than the International Space Station.

That is far beyond the inaugural astro-tourism flights made this summer by SpaceX rivals Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, which carried their respective billionaire founders - Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos - along for the ride.

Those two suborbital trips, while high enough for their crews to experience a few moments of microgravity, were over in a matter of minutes.

The high-orbital flight planned for Inspiration4 carries greater risks, including more exposure to radiation in space. But the crew members professed the utmost confidence in SpaceX, the private California-based rocket company founded by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk.

Isaacman, founder and chief executive of electronic financial services company Shift4 Payments Inc, is the mission’s originator and benefactor, having paid Musk an undisclosed but presumably enormous sum to fly all four crew members into orbit.

Musk joined in on a pre-flight “check-in” call on Tuesday, “and did give us his assurances that the entire leadership is solely focused on this mission,” Isaacman told reporters when asked about pre-launch nerves. “No jitters, just excited to get going.”

Arceneaux, a childhood bone cancer survivor who now works with young lymphoma and leukemia patients at St. Jude Children’s Research Center in Memphis, Tennessee, which the Inspiration4 mission was designed largely to promote, said she was “just so excited.”

“Any jitters are the good kind,” she added. “I’m just waiting for tomorrow to get here.”

Joining Tuesday’s event was at least one retired NASA astronaut, Catherine “Cady” Coleman, 60, a veteran of two space shuttle missions who spoke up to wish the Inspiration4 crew well, telling them: “We want to welcome you to the family.”

Isaacman posts picture of jets surrounding launchpad

Tuesday 14 September 2021 16:50 , Andrew Griffin

Jared Isaacman, the first person to join the Inspiration4 trip and its funder, has posted a picture of his friends in the Black Diamond Jet Team, a civilian aerobatics crew, flying around the rocket as it sits on the launchpad.

Crew pictured in spacesuits

Tuesday 14 September 2021 15:30 , Andrew Griffin

Here’s the Inspiration4 crew, all kitted out in their spacesuits:

Launch expected Wednesday night/Thursday morning

Monday 13 September 2021 12:01 , Andrew Griffin

SpaceX has announced that it is targeting a window on Wednesday night/Thursday morning for the launch:

Launch window delayed by 24 hours

Monday 13 September 2021 11:13 , Andrew Griffin

SpaceX has delayed the opening of the launch window of the Inspiration4 mission from Wednesday to Thursday.

It’s important to note that this is only the opening of the window – it can still happen any time after Thursday, rather than necessarily on Thursday.

We’re expecting more details with more precise timings soon.

“After arrival, the teams from SpaceX and Inspiration4 also met yesterday evening for a follow-on flight readiness review and an initial weather briefing,” the statement read. “After evaluating the readiness of the Falcon 9 rocket, Dragon spacecraft, associated ground systems, recovery assets and other key elements of SpaceX’s human spaceflight system, and the current weather forecasts of conditions at the launch site, along the ascent corridor, and at the landing locations off the coasts of Florida for a safe return of the crew a few days later, teams agreed to now target no earlier than 8:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday, September 15 for liftoff.

“This will allow additional time for final preparations, vehicle checkouts and data reviews. SpaceX and Inspiration4 will narrow down the launch window to five hours approximately three days before liftoff.”

Hello and welcome...

Monday 13 September 2021 09:56 , Andrew Griffin

... to The Independent’s live coverage of the Inspiration4 mission.

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