SpaceX Live Updates: The Inspiration4 Crew Embarks on a 3-Day Mission in Orbit

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Sept. 15, 2021, 9:12 p.m. ET

Sept. 15, 2021, 9:12 p.m. ET

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Credit…SpaceX

For most of the mission, if nothing goes wrong, the Crew Dragon spacecraft will operate autonomously with the assistance of SpaceX’s mission control at the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif.

The astronauts’ main task is to monitor the spacecraft’s systems. In the case of malfunctions, however, the crew, especially Mr. Isaacman as the commander and Dr. Proctor as the pilot, have learned how to take over the flying of Resilience.

Sept. 15, 2021, 9:08 p.m. ET

Sept. 15, 2021, 9:08 p.m. ET

Reporting From Kennedy Space Center

The Crew Dragon has completed its first thruster firing to put it on an elliptical trajectory moving farther away from Earth.

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:50 p.m. ET

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:50 p.m. ET

Credit…John Raoux/Associated Press

Mr. Isaacman has declined to say how much he is paying for this orbital trip, only that it was less than the $200 million he hopes to raise for St. Jude Children’s Hospital with an accompanying fund-raising drive.

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:33 p.m. ET

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:33 p.m. ET

Editing Space Coverage

Typically when NASA launches astronauts, the agency provides continuous streaming coverage of the flight. We’re waiting to learn what more we’ll hear from the crew aboard the Resilience capsule tonight.

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:30 p.m. ET

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:30 p.m. ET

Reporting From Kennedy Space Center

The first thruster firing, lasting 10 minutes, puts the capsule on an elliptical orbit, taking it to a higher altitude. The second firing, about an hour after liftoff, makes the orbit circular at 360 miles above Earth’s surface.

Credit…Agence France-Presse, via Spacex

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:25 p.m. ET

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:25 p.m. ET

Reporting From Kennedy Space Center

Those thruster firings will happen over the next couple of hours. The SpaceX broadcast just ended.

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:24 p.m. ET

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:24 p.m. ET

Reporting From Kennedy Space Center

The Crew Dragon will be firing its thrusters twice to raise its altitude to 360 miles.

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:18 p.m. ET

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:18 p.m. ET

Reporting From Kennedy Space Center

The astronauts just opened up their visors.

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:17 p.m. ET

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:17 p.m. ET

Credit…Thom Baur/Reuters

When NASA owned and operated its own spacecraft, there was no chance it would rent out a Saturn 5 rocket or a space shuttle to someone else. But during the Obama administration, NASA decided to hire private companies to take its astronauts to the space station. One of the program’s secondary goals was to spur more commercial use of low-Earth orbit. A decade later, SpaceX can offer trips to people who are not NASA astronauts.

“I’m very bullish on the tourism market and the tourism activity,” Phil McAlister, NASA’s director of commercial spaceflight development, said during a news conference in May. “I think more people that are going to fly, they’re going to want to do more things in space.”

In addition, the Crew Dragon, built with the latest of technologies, is essentially a self-driving spaceship. When things are working properly, there is very little that the crew has to do to operate the capsule.

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:15 p.m. ET

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:15 p.m. ET

Reporting From Kennedy Space Center

The Crew Dragon capsule has separated from the second stage. The Inspiration4 mission is now circling Earth.

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CreditCredit…SpaceX

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:13 p.m. ET

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:13 p.m. ET

Reporting From Kennedy Space Center

The booster has successfully landed on the floating platform.

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:12 p.m. ET

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:12 p.m. ET

Reporting From Kennedy Space Center

The second stage engine has shut down. They are in orbit.

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:11 p.m. ET

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:11 p.m. ET

Reporting From Kennedy Space Center

The booster stage fired engines to slow down as it reenters the atmosphere; the second stage continues to push the Crew Dragon to orbit.

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:09 p.m. ET

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:09 p.m. ET

Editing Space Coverage

Fist bumps in the capsule by the crew.

Video

Video player loading
CreditCredit…SpaceX

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:06 p.m. ET

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:06 p.m. ET

Reporting From Kennedy Space Center

The booster is now falling back to Earth, headed for a landing on a floating platform in the Atlantic.

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:06 p.m. ET

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:06 p.m. ET

Reporting From Kennedy Space Center

Second stage engine is firing.

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:06 p.m. ET

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:06 p.m. ET

Reporting From Kennedy Space Center

The booster stage has done its work.

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:06 p.m. ET

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:06 p.m. ET

Editing Space Coverage

“Looks like a smooth ride for the crew,” John Insprucker, a SpaceX engineer, said over the live video stream.

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:04 p.m. ET

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:04 p.m. ET

Reporting From Kennedy Space Center

The roar of the rocket engines just rumbled past the press site.

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:03 p.m. ET

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:03 p.m. ET

Reporting From Kennedy Space Center

Liftoff!

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:02 p.m. ET

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:02 p.m. ET

Reporting From Kennedy Space Center

T-1 minute

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:01 p.m. ET

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:01 p.m. ET

Reporting From Kennedy Space Center

Two minutes to go. The rocket should be fully fueled now.

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:00 p.m. ET

Sept. 15, 2021, 8:00 p.m. ET

Reporting From Kennedy Space Center

The sun has gone down. But the sky will become bright again when Inspiration4 takes off. It’s hard to appreciate how bright rocket flames are without seeing them directly.

Sept. 15, 2021, 7:58 p.m. ET

Sept. 15, 2021, 7:58 p.m. ET

Reporting From Kennedy Space Center

Five minutes to go. This is the quiet before the roar of blastoff.

Sept. 15, 2021, 7:55 p.m. ET

Sept. 15, 2021, 7:55 p.m. ET

Credit…SpaceX

As the four amateur astronauts head into space, the voice of Sarah Gillis will guide them into orbit.

Ms. Gillis is the lead space operations engineer for SpaceX, and her job includes training the astronauts on all safety aspects and operations of the flight.

Before takeoff, Ms. Gillis wished the crew good luck and a godspeed.

“It has been an absolute honor to prepare you for this historic flight,” she said.

In the Netflix documentary “Countdown: Inspiration4 Mission to Space,” Jared Isaacman, the mission’s commander paying for the trip, described her role as the equivalent of the “CapCom” on a NASA mission. That’s short for “Capsule Communication,” traditionally an astronaut on the ground who speaks with the crew in the spacecraft.

“The burden of ‘Will we execute well or not?’ will really fall on her,” Mr. Isaacman said in the documentary.

Ms. Gillis has been working for months with Mr. Isaacman and the other three astronauts to ensure they’re fully prepared for their trip, down to such details as how to operate a fire extinguisher on the flight.

“There’s two hats that you have to wear to be successful at that,” she said in the documentary. “One is the operational hat, where you need to understand exactly what actions you need to take to keep them safe. On the other aspect, I care very deeply about every single one of these people now.”

Ms. Gillis graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder with an engineering degree. In the Netflix documentary she said she was encouraged to pursue engineering by a high school mentor who was a former astronaut.

Ms. Gillis is also a classically trained violinist who started to learn how to play when she was 2 from her mother, a professional violinist.

“She certainly did not raise me to be an engineer,” she said.

This is not the first crew of astronauts riding in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule. In April, Ms. Gillis helped guide NASA’s Crew-2 mission to the International Space Station.

The flight was not without incident, as she had to warn the crew that a piece of space debris was about to come too close to their spacecraft for comfort. The crew was getting ready to go to sleep when she told them to perform a number of safety procedures, including putting their spacesuits back on.

The flight continued to the space station without incident and later analysis showed that it had been a false alarm, and no debris actually passed near the spacecraft.

Sept. 15, 2021, 7:45 p.m. ET

Sept. 15, 2021, 7:45 p.m. ET

Credit…Inspiration 4/Reuters

SpaceX trained the Inspiration4 crew in largely the same way it has trained NASA crews.

To prepare themselves for the rigors of spaceflight, the crew members were swung around a large centrifuge at the National Aerospace Training and Research Center in Pennsylvania, simulating the forces they will experience during launch and re-entry into the atmosphere at the end of the mission.

They also made trips in a plane that flies in giant arcs that allow the occupants to feel as if they are in zero-gravity for about half a minute. (Gravity does not turn off; rather, the plane dives at the same rate as the people inside are falling, providing them the illusion that they are floating.)

The four went camping on Mount Rainier in Washington State, part of a team-building exercise organized by Mr. Isaacman.

While the Crew Dragon capsule is automated and usually flies itself, the Inspiration4 crew nonetheless underwent much of the same training as NASA astronauts to handle situations if something goes wrong. That included spending 30 continuous hours in a Crew…

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