In a first for private space travel, SpaceX launched four civilians into low-Earth orbit September 15 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Inspiration4 mission, SpaceX’s fourth crewed space operation, was commissioned by Jared Isaacman, an amateur aviator and CEO of a payment processing service, for an undisclosed amount.
He and three companions—including an Air Force veteran and data engineer, a geoscientist and entrepreneur, and a physician’s assistant—will collect medical data during their four-day circumnavigation and raise money for cancer research.
“A few have gone before and many are about to follow,” said Isaacman.
Crew members received about six months of training before embarking on the flight, which will take them around the globe roughly ever 90 minutes. While SpaceX intends the craft to fly autonomously, the crew has been trained to take over in the case of an emergency, AFP reported.
The civilian-crewed mission also notably includes a modified capsule from the one SpaceX used to deliver NASA astronauts to the International Space Station. In lieu of a docking mechanism on other crew capsules, the ship in orbit around the Earth at press time has a large, curved window—the largest continuous window ever flown in space, SpaceX says.
According to SpaceX, the flight around the globe will take the modified Dragon capsule to a maximum distance of about 364 miles away from the Earth, substantially further than fellow private spacefarers Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson, who launched themselves skyward earlier this summer. Branson’s trip on Virgin Galactic’s maiden flight saw him reach an altitude of 50 miles while Bezos’ Blue Origin rocket reached 66 miles.