Elon Musk’s SpaceX Launches First All-Civilian Flight to Orbit

SpaceX has just successfully launched the first all-civilian flight to orbit, sending a Tesla Roadster into space with a mannequin in its driver’s seat. The launch was broadcast live on YouTube for all of us to watch and cheer as Elon Musk’s vision for the future comes true.

On Wednesday, Elon Musk’s SpaceX launched their first all-civilian flight to orbit. The company sent a Crew Dragon capsule into space and back down again.

In another milestone trip for commercial space travel, Elon Musk’s SpaceX sent four people into the deepest orbit Americans have flown to in more than a decade on Wednesday evening.

According to a live broadcast of the launch, a Falcon 9 rocket with a Crew Dragon space capsule on top took off with a flaming plume from a pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida shortly after 8 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

The capsule carrying participants of the Inspiration4 mission—a wealthy businessman, a geoscientist, a medical assistant, and an aerospace engineer—separated from a rocket about 12 minutes after launch. The capsule then started its journey to a 360-mile orbit above Earth.

According to SpaceX, such orbit would be higher than that of the International Space Station and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Hubble Space Telescope. Since 2009, when NASA astronauts last worked on fixing the Hubble Space Telescope, Americans haven’t gone that far into space.

After approximately three days, the capsule will splash down off the coast of Florida, returning to Earth.


On Wednesday, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Crew Dragon spacecraft launched from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, with four people aboard.

Photo courtesy of Reuters/Sam Wolfe

The journey into space Wednesday is a watershed moment for the commercial space sector, which has drawn entrepreneurs and investors looking for new economic possibilities beyond Earth.

For the first time, an all-civilian crew will fly to orbit on a mission organized completely by private individuals. Jared Isaacman, the wealthy entrepreneur of payments processor Shift4 Payments Inc., bought the trip from SpaceX for an unknown amount and is in charge of the mission. Previous astronauts had to book seats on Russian government-controlled rockets in order to go that far into space.

“Only a few have gone before, and many more are soon to. Mr. Isaacman remarked during a SpaceX live broadcast of the launch, “The door is open now, and it’s really amazing.”

On the charity trip, Mr. Isaacman was accompanied by three other individuals. Dr. Sian Proctor, a geoscientist and scientific communicator; Hayley Arceneaux, a cancer survivor and medical assistant; and Chris Sembroski, an Air Force veteran and aerospace industry employee

Risks are inherent in orbital space missions. In SpaceX’s crew capsule, the crew will fly around the Earth at a speed of approximately 17,000 miles per hour. During the first stage of flight, the company’s Falcon 9 rocket utilizes nine engines fuelled by kerosene and liquid oxygen. The heat shield of the capsule is anticipated to withstand temperatures of approximately 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit during re-entry. The capsule is anticipated to move approximately 24 feet per second when it lands in the ocean using parachutes.


A plush dog can be seen floating in the capsule of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Inspiration4 crew in this image obtained from the SpaceX live webcast.

Getty Images/SpaceX/Agence France-Presse

During a flight briefing on Tuesday, Ms. Arceneaux remarked, “Any jitters are the good kind.”

Members of the crew spent months preparing for today’s trip. Hiking up Mt. Rainier together, flying in jet fighters to simulate the rigors of spaceflight, and spending 30 hours in the crew capsule were all part of the routine.

Benji Reed, SpaceX’s senior director of human spaceflight, said on Tuesday that the firm had devised a mission plan that includes tracking fuel, food, and water—as well as space debris. According to Mr. Isaacman, Mr. Musk informed crew members that the company’s executives are focused on completing the mission.

Mr. Musk established SpaceX, or Space Exploration Technologies Corp., in 2002 with the aim of transporting humans to Mars. To reduce the cost of sending people or cargo into space, the firm has invested in creating rockets that can be reused reasonably quickly.

Separate Falcon 9 rockets detonated in 2015 and the next year. However, SpaceX claims to have launched more than 120 Falcon 9 rockets.

The firm carried two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station last year, the first human launch from American soil in almost a decade.

In addition to handling launches for NASA, military clients, and commercial customers, SpaceX has developed additional rockets, launched a satellite internet service called Starlink, and is developing a lunar lander for NASA. SpaceX was valued at more than $74 billion in April.

Private space flights are also being pursued by other businesses. During the summer, Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. carried passengers approximately 54 miles above Earth, while Blue Origin LLC transported passengers more than 62 miles above. Seats on Boeing’s Starliner space capsule may be utilized for tourist trips, according to the company.

Mr. Reed of SpaceX said on Tuesday that the firm aims to make traveling to space, even to other planets, simpler. “In the long run, spaceflight will resemble airline travel. “You purchase a ticket and leave,” he said.

He claimed the firm has a backlog of commercial-astronaut missions and hopes to be able to launch them at least six times a year. Some of the company’s planned private missions have already been disclosed, including four contracts with Axiom Space Inc.

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Inspiration4 was the conclusion of a yearlong effort at NASA to assist strengthen businesses that might offer transportation services for NASA as well as private astronauts, according to Phil McAlister, head of NASA’s commercial spaceflight division.

“NASA can simply utilize private businesses’ money and capabilities—we don’t have to develop everything ourselves. Then we’ll be able to concentrate on distant space exploration missions,” he added.

The Civilian Orbital Mission

The editors have chosen more WSJ coverage on the Inspiration4 launch.

Micah Maidenberg can be reached at [email protected].

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