*Update: Inspiration4 successfully lifted off this evening shortly after 8:00PM EDT and entered orbit about 12 minutes later. The historic all-civilian mission to space is now underway.*
We're just a few hours away from the historic Inspiration4 space flight and the excitement is definitely building for tonight's launch. We're as excited as just about anyone to watch the event live, so we've put together a helpful guide for how to watch Inspiration4's all-civilian mission aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft.
Inspiration4 will send four civilian crewmembers into orbit around the Earth for three days using a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, lifting off from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. After three days in orbit, the crew will descend back into the atmosphere and splash down in the Atlantic Ocean.
The crew is made up of billionaire entrepreneur (we know, we know, it's different this time, we promise) Jared Isaacman, geoscientist Sian Proctor, childhood cancer survivor and physician assistant Hayley Arceneaux, and data scientist Chris Sembroski.
The purpose of the mission is raise funds and awareness for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, but it's also the first all-civilian flight to orbit the Earth, a major milestone in civilian space travel.
How to watch Inpiration4 launch
As for how to watch Inspiration4 launch, liftoff is preliminarily planned for no earlier than 8:02PM EDT on September 15, and we'll have you covered with live launch coverage, so keep this page bookmarked for Inspiration4 launch information such as launch time and live updates during the launch itself.
Fortunately, this is a SpaceX rocket launch at its core, and the private space flight company is very liberal with its coverage, offering livestreams of its launches on its website and YouTube channel. The channel is now live, with coverage starting around 3:30PM EDT ahead of the scheduled lift off tonight, so you can watch the historic flight unfold along with breaking news and updates from us as the mission progresses.
How is the Inspiration4 launch different from Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson's flights?
Both Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic's recent flights aimed to put their respective billionaire founders into space, but what qualifies as "space" is a bit of a thorny question. The problem is that Earth's atmosphere actually extends pretty far out into space, with the Earth's exosphere stretching out for thousands of miles above the surface.
The Kármán line, an arbitrary boundary 62 miles (100 km) above the Earth's surface, is the internationally recognized boundary of outer space, but NASA and the FAA award Astronaut wings to anyone who flies above 50 miles (80km), so Branson and crew would qualify as astronauts, despite not hitting the Kármán line during their July 11 flight but experiencing the microgravity (opens in new tab) we typically associate with space flight.
Blue Origin's New Shepard, on the other hand, did make it past the Kármán line, but only for several minutes before returning to Earth and coming nowhere close to completely orbiting the Earth.
Inspiration4, meanwhile, won't just clear the Kármán line, it will spend three days in orbit around the Earth, which is a much longer and more complicated mission than what Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic attempted – and once you're in orbit, you are very much in the company of Yuri Gagarin and other space pioneers.
- SpaceX: Everything you need to know