SpaceX expected to shoot a billionaire into space Wednesday night with his two contest winners and a healthcare laborer who survived childhood cancer.
It’s the first contracted traveler flight for Elon Musk’s SpaceX and a major step in space tourism by a private company.
“It blows me away, honestly,” SpaceX director Benji Reed said on the eve of launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in the United States. “It gives me goose bumps even right now to talk about it.”
The Pennsylvania entrepreneur who is covering the tab — Jared Isaacman — will not say the amount he paid.
In the wake of launching at some point after 8:02pm local time Wednesday (00:02 GMT), Isaacman and his fellow travelers will go through three days orbiting Earth at an uncommonly high altitude of 575km (357 miles) — 160km (100 miles) higher than the International Space Station — prior to sprinkling down off the Florida coast this weekend.
In July, Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson and Blue Origin’s Jeff Bezos launched onboard their own rockets to spur ticket sales.
Their flights scarcely skimmed space, however, and lasted only minutes.
Isaacman and the others — St Jude Children’s Research Hospital doctor assistant Hayley Arceneaux and sweepstake winners Chris Sembroski, a data engineer, and Sian Proctor, a community college teacher — said just before
that they had hardly any last-minute jitters.
It will be the first time in 60 years of human spaceflight that no professional astronaut is on board an orbit-bound rocket.
The travelers’ fully automated capsule has as of now been in orbit: It was utilized for SpaceX’s second astronaut flight for NASA to the space station.
The main huge change to the capsule, as indicated by Reed, is the enormous domed window at the top instead of the standard space station docking mechanisms.
Isaacman — founder of a payment-processing organization and an accomplished pilot — said SpaceX CEO Musk has guaranteed him “the entire leadership team is solely focused on this mission and is very confident.”
He added: “That obviously inspires a lot of confidence in us as well.”
Musk flew in for the launch, as did many SpaceX laborers and agents of St Jude hospital.
Isaacman is using the flight to attempt to raise $200m for St Jude, half of that coming from his own pockets.
While NASA plays no role in the journey, its managers and astronauts are pulling for the flight, named Inspiration4.
“To me, the more people involved in it, whether private or government, the better, ” said NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough, who is nearing the end of his six-month space station stay.
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