SpaceX Updates: Inspiration4 Crew Gets Ready for Launch

Four amateur astronauts who have never been to space before are hours away from heading to orbit. Here’s what you need to know.,

LiveUpdated Sept. 15, 2021, 3:30 p.m. ETSept. 15, 2021, 3:30 p.m. ET

Four amateur astronauts who have never been to space before are hours away from heading to orbit. Here’s what you need to know.

ImageFrom left, Chris Sembroski, Sian Proctor, Jared Isaacman and Hayley Arceneaux, the crew of the Inspiration4 mission, during a dress rehearsal for the launch.
From left, Chris Sembroski, Sian Proctor, Jared Isaacman and Hayley Arceneaux, the crew of the Inspiration4 mission, during a dress rehearsal for the launch.Credit…SpaceX, via Associated Press

When the next SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday, it’ll be a mission unlike any that has come before.

There will be four people inside the capsule on top of the rocket, just like the last two SpaceX missions that took NASA astronauts to the International Space Station. But this time, none of the four passengers works for NASA or any other space agency.

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Sept. 15, 2021, 3:20 p.m. ETSept. 15, 2021, 3:20 p.m. ET
ImageMr. Isaacman, founder and chief executive of Shift4 Payments.
Mr. Isaacman, founder and chief executive of Shift4 Payments. Credit…Patrick T. Fallon/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

He grew up in New Jersey and in ninth grade started a company offering help to befuddled computer users. One of his clients was a payment processing company, and its chief executive offered him a job. Mr. Isaacman took the job and dropped out of high school at age 16. He obtained a general educational development certificate, or G.E.D.

After half a year, Mr. Isaacman figured out a new way to handle payment processing, and in 1999 he founded his own company in his parents’ basement. That evolved into Shift4 Payments, which went public in June 2020.

Mr. Isaacman started flying as a hobby, learning to pilot more and more advanced aircraft including military fighter jets. In 2012, he started a second company called Draken International, which owns fighter jets and provides training for pilots in the United States military. He has since sold Draken but still flies fighter jets for fun.

Last year, Mr. Isaacman wanted to invest in SpaceX, which remains a privately held company, but missed the latest investment offering by the company. Mr. Isaacman tried to convince SpaceX officials of his enthusiasm by telling them he wanted to buy a trip to orbit someday. That led to conversations that resulted in Mr. Isaacman undertaking the Inspiration4 mission. He is serving as the mission’s commander.

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Sept. 15, 2021, 3:20 p.m. ETSept. 15, 2021, 3:20 p.m. ET
Credit…Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A five-hour launch window opens Wednesday at 8:02 p.m. Eastern time. The exact time will depend on the weather. Current forecasts give an 80 percent chance of favorable conditions. In an update posted to Twitter at about 1:20 p.m., SpaceX said the rocket’s systems were ready for flight.

If the flight can’t launch during that five-hour time frame, SpaceX could try again on Thursday beginning at 8:05 p.m. Eastern time.

The launch will be streamed live by SpaceX on its YouTube channel, and also by Netflix on its YouTube channel.

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Sept. 15, 2021, 3:20 p.m. ETSept. 15, 2021, 3:20 p.m. ET
From left, Hayley Arceneaux, Chris Sembroski, Jared Isaacman and Sian Proctor, during a zero gravity flight to train for the Inspiration4 mission in July.Credit…John Kraus/Inspiration4, via Associated Press

Hayley Arceneaux, 29, is a physician assistant at St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis. Almost two decades ago, Ms. Arceneaux, who grew up in the small town of St. Francisville, La., was a patient at St. Jude when bone cancer was diagnosed in her left leg, just above the knee. Ms. Arceneaux went through chemotherapy, an operation to install prosthetic leg bones and long sessions of physical therapy.

“When I grow up, I want to be a nurse at St. Jude,” she said in a video shown at the ceremony in 2003. “I want to be a mentor to patients. When they come in, I’ll say, ‘I had that when I was little, and I’m doing good.'”

Last year, Ms. Arceneaux was hired by St. Jude. She works with children with leukemia and lymphoma.

Ms. Arceneaux could become the youngest American ever to travel to orbit. She will also be the first person with a prosthetic body part to go to space. She will be the health officer for the mission.

Sian Proctor, 51, is a community college professor from Tempe, Ariz.

Dr. Proctor, who is African American and holds a doctorate in science education, had come close to becoming an astronaut the old-fashioned way. She said that in 2009, she was among 47 finalists whom NASA selected from 3,500 applications. The space agency chose nine new astronauts that year. Dr. Proctor was not one of them.

She applied twice more and was not even among the finalists.

She still pursued her space dreams in other ways. In 2013, Dr. Proctor was one of six people who lived for four months in a small building on the side of a Hawaiian volcano, part of an effort financed by NASA to study the isolation and stresses of a long trip to Mars.

She will be the pilot on the Inspiration4 mission, the first Black woman to serve as the pilot of a spacecraft.

Christopher Sembroski, 42, of Everett, Wash., works in data engineering for Lockheed Martin. During college, Mr. Sembroski worked as a counselor at Space Camp, an educational program in Huntsville, Ala., that offers children and families a taste of what life as an astronaut is like. He also volunteered for ProSpace, a nonprofit advocacy group that pushed to open space to more people.

Mr. Sembroski described himself as “that guy behind the scenes, that’s really helping other people accomplish their goals and to take center stage.”

He’ll be the mission specialist for Inspiration4, and responsible for certain tasks during the mission.

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