SpaceX trumps Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin as all-civilian crew orbit Earth

Falcon 9 ©SpaceX

Elon Musk’s SpaceX has successfully sent the first-ever all-civilian crew into orbit onboard the Crew Dragon Capsule which blasted off from Florida at 8.30 p.m. local time on Wednesday atop a SpaceX two-stage Falcon 9 rocket ship. The flight, estimated to cost US$200 million for the astronauts, will last three days while the capsule orbits the Earth at an altitude of 363 miles (585km), which is appreciably higher than the Hubble Telescope or the International Space Station. The capsule will orbit the Earth once every 90 minutes, travelling at a speed of 17,000 miles per hour (27,360 kph) or approximately 22-times the speed of sound.

Once the flight has ended, the capsule is expected to splashdown in the Atlantic. The crew comprises Jared Isaacman 38, Sian Proctor, 51, Hayley Arceneaux, 29, and Chris Sembroski, 42 and it is understood that Isaacman personally paid for the flight and the three others were his invitees. He read an in-flight statement in which he thanked those who had made possible a journey “right to the doorstep of an exciting and unexplored frontier, where few have come before and many are about to follow,” adding that: “The door is open now, and it’s pretty incredible.” The crew are not involved in flying the spacecraft as it is all being performed by on-board guidance systems and ground-based flight technicians. However, the crew will be involved in performing a number of medical experiments with “potential applications for human health on Earth and during future spaceflights.”

Additionally, biomedical data and biological samples, including ultrasound scans, will be collected from crew members before, during and after the flight. SpaceX is one the most established of the new commercial space flight ventures having launched multiple satellites into space as well as transporting numerous cargo payloads and astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA. Two of its Dragon capsules are currently docked there.

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