SpaceX’s first all-civilian spaceflight is scheduled to launch this evening from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida. The four civilians aboard the Dragon spacecraft will hitch a ride to space via a SpaceX Falcon 9 reusable rocket, and will spend three days in orbit before splashing down at one of several possible landing sites off the coast of Florida.
The flight is being chartered by billionaire Jared Isaacman, who earlier this year donated two of the four seats to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. The hospital provides care to children and young adults battling cancer and other catastrophic diseases, free of charge.
St. Jude put one of the seats up as a prize in a sweepstakes, and awarded the other to a frontline worker at its hospital, 29-year-old Hayley Arceneaux. With the flight, the bone cancer survivor will become the youngest American in space.
The crew will launch into an orbit of about 575 kilometers – that’s higher than any humans have gone since the Hubble servicing missions. For reference, the International Space Station is in an orbit of around 408 kilometers and Hubble itself sits at about 540 kilometers up.
During their time in orbit, the crew will go around Earth about 15 times per day. More importantly, they’ll conduct scientific research that could help advance human health here on Earth and during future long-duration spaceflights.
The launch window is set to open at 8:02 p.m. Eastern and will remain open for five hours. SpaceX’s webcast will start roughly four hours before launch and can be viewed over on YouTube. In the meantime, you can check out an hour-long question and answer session with the Inspiration4 crew above.