SpaceX plans to send four civilians into space in 2021 as part of the world's first commercial astronaut mission in orbit.
The mission, which seeks to raise support for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, is called Inspiration4. It will have four seats representing the mission pillars of Hope, Prosperity, Leadership, and Generosity. Jared Isaacman, founder and CEO of private payment processing company Shift4 Payments, will lead the flight.
The entrepreneur plans to donate three seats aboard SpaceX’s cutting-edge Crew Dragon capsule to members of the general public, which will be announced in a few weeks.
"Inspiration4 is the realization of a lifelong dream and a step towards a future in which anyone can venture out and explore the stars," Isaacman said in a statement. "I appreciate the tremendous responsibility that comes with commanding this mission, and I want to use this historic moment to inspire humanity while helping to tackle childhood cancer here on Earth."
Two of the three seats have already been donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, one of which will be taken up by “a frontline healthcare worker,” and the other seat will be given to one of the people who donate to St. Jude’s hospital.
The fourth seat will be given to one of the customers of Isaacman’s Shift4Shop eCommerce platform. An independent panel of judges will select the winner in this competition.
According to SpaceX, the mission will take place in the fourth quarter of 2021. It will launch atop one of the company’s Falcon 9 rockets from the 39A launch site at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Elon Musk says the crew members will spend 2 to 4 days in orbit, but it is really up to Isaacman. At the end of the mission, Dragon will make a soft landing in the ocean off Florida's coast.
The Inspiration4 crew will undergo commercial astronaut training from SpaceX on the Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft. They will learn orbital mechanics, how to operate in microgravity, zero gravity, and other forms of stress testing.
Last year, SpaceX made history by becoming the first private company to successfully launch NASA astronauts into space. And the company has already announced several private missions for the future. For instance, it will fly four people to the ISS early next year in partnership with Axiom Space and arrange a trip around the Moon for Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa in 2023.