SpaceX's historic Inspiration4 launch reaches orbit successfully carrying private crew

This is CNBC's blog, which covered the SpaceX Inspiration4 launch, a historic crewed launch of nonprofessional astronauts from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — SpaceX launched its Inspiration4 mission on Wednesday evening from NASA's facility in Florida, successfully bringing its all-civilian crew into orbit. The mission is the first private crew launched to orbit by Elon Musk's company and the first time a crew was made up entirely of nonprofessional astronauts.

Inspiration4 includes commander Jared Isaacman, pilot Sian Proctor, medical officer Hayley Arceneaux, and mission specialist Chris Sembroski. The multiday trip was paid for by Isaacman for an undisclosed amount, with the main goal of the spaceflight to raise $200 million for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Historic Inspiration4 mission reaches orbit safely

A look inside Crew Dragon capsule Resilience after successfully reaching orbit on September 15, 2021.

The Inspiration4 crew, riding in SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft, successfully reached orbit after launching on Wednesday evening.

A historic spaceflight for Elon Musk's company, the launch comes with a number of milestones:

  • First entirely nonprofessional crew to become astronauts
  • First Black female pilot of spaceflight
  • Youngest American citizen to fly in space
  • First private SpaceX spaceflight

SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell in a statement heralded the mission as "paving the way for a future where space is more accessible to all who wish to go."

"We are so proud that they entrusted us to fly them," Shotwell said. "On behalf of all SpaceX employees, I want to thank the crew and their families for allowing us to be a part of their historic mission."

The crew of four — Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Sian Proctor, Chris Sembroski — will spend about three days in orbit before returning, with Crew Dragon capsule "Resilience" planning to splashdown off the coast of Florida.

Jared Isaacman shares what Inspiration4 means for the future of space travel

"Few have come before, and many are about to follow. The door's open now and it's pretty incredible," Inspiration4 commander Jared Isaacman said close to 10 minutes after liftoff, as heard on SpaceX's livestream.

The billionaire entrepreneur and CEO of Shift4 Payments purchased the multiday flight from SpaceX for an undisclosed fee, with the goal of raising awareness and funding for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

— Hannah Miao

Space X launch: Falcon 9 rocket lifts off carrying all-civilian crew

Space X launch: Falcon 9 rocket lifts off carrying all-civilian crew
Space X launch: Falcon 9 rocket lifts off carrying all-civilian crew

SpaceX lands the booster of the Falcon 9 rocket

The company landed the Falcon 9 rocket booster on the company's ocean droneship, as the Crew Dragon spacecraft continues on toward orbit. This was the third successful landing for this rocket booster.

Seven minutes after liftoff: Falcon 9 rocket doing well, booster on its way back to attempt landing

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket was performing as expected and on course about seven minutes after liftoff. The rocket's booster, also known as its first stage, will attempt to land on the company's droneship station in the ocean.

Liftoff for Inspiration4

A Falcon 9 rocket with a Crew Dragon capsule launches from pad 39A at NASAâs Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida, United States on September 15, 2021.
Paul Hennessy | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket rumbles off the launchpad and heads into the Florida night sky, with Crew Dragon Resilience embarking on its second trip to space carrying the history-making crew.

10 minutes to liftoff, SpaceX is go for launch

The rocket is almost fully loaded with fuel and will be ready for liftoff in 10 minutes.

Here is why NASA is supportive of SpaceX's Inspiration4 mission

The Inspiration4 launch represents one example of what can happen when the public and private sectors work together, deputy NASA administrator Pamela Melroy said ahead of liftoff.

"Creating a sustainable economy in low-Earth orbit including commercial transportation to space for people & crew and commercial space stations is critical to our future on Earth & in space," Melroy said on Twitter.

SpaceX developed the Crew Dragon capsule with heavy investment from NASA, which has flown 10 of its professional astronauts on the spacecraft.

Hannah Miao

SpaceX capsule features largest window ever put in space

The company modified the top of Crew Dragon capsule Resilience to add a massive window for the astronauts, replacing the docking hatch that is under the spacecraft's nose cone with the "cupola."

A mockup of the cupola window installed in the nosecone of Crew Dragon.

Here's what the Inspiration4 crew is bringing to orbit

Members of the Inspiration4 crew shared which personal items they are bringing to space in pre-shot segment for the SpaceX livestream.

  • Jared Isaacman: A dragon pendant made for Isaacman's wife and daughters
  • Chris Sembroski: Family heirloom pins
  • Hayley Arceneaux: A photo of Arceneaux at age 10, when she was fighting bone cancer
  • Sian Proctor: A commemorative coin from Guam, where she is from, and rings that belonged to Proctor's mother and father. Proctor's father passed away when she was 19 years old

Hannah Miao

SpaceX mission director gives 'go' call to begin fueling

With 45 minutes until liftoff, the mission director gave the call to begin loading the Falcon 9 rocket with fuel and propellant. The crew access arm then backed away from the capsule in preparation for launch.

SpaceX then armed the escape system on board Crew Dragon Resilience -- this will carry the astronauts away from the rocket very quickly in an emergency scenario.

SpaceX to attempt to land and reuse the Falcon 9 rocket booster

SpaceX is reusing a Falcon 9 rocket booster to launch Inspiration4, as it previously launched two missions to orbit and then landed. The company will once again attempt to recover the booster using its droneship in the Atlantic Ocean:


90 minutes to go

The countdown clock has ticked below 1 hour and 30 minutes until liftoff.

Here is the altitude the crew will orbit the Earth at, the highest people have traveled in decades.


Crew Dragon hatch is closed

The SpaceX team at the launch site closed the hatch to Crew Dragon capsule Resilience, with less than two hours to go until liftoff.

Suit leak checks complete

SpaceX completes a check on the spacesuits to make sure there are no leaks, one of the last steps before the hatch of Crew Dragon is closed for launch.

Targeting liftoff at 8:02 p.m. ET

Inspiration4 is counting down to a liftoff time at 8:02:56 ET

All four astronauts seated and strapped into ‘Resilience’

With about two and a half hours to go, all four Inspiration4 astronauts were seated in SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft Resilience. The seats of the spacecraft then rotated back slowly into the launch position, with the astronauts facing skyward.


Boarding Crew Dragon

The four crew members arrived at the top of the launch tower and boarded Crew Dragon, after signing their names on the wall of the crew access arm.

SpaceX added a company logo on the "white room" wall for private astronauts to sign their name, next to the NASA meatball logo that the agency's astronauts sign.

The crew arrives at the LC-39A tower

Back in the Model Xs to go to the launchpad

The crew left the suit up room and got back in the Model Xs for a short ride to the launch tower. SpaceX noted on the webcast that the Model Xs are custom made to work with the space suits and connect to their environmental support to keep the astronauts comfortable.

The crew finishes suiting up

Weather forecast looking good for launch

SpaceX principal integration engineer John Insprucker gave a weather forecast update, saying that the local area "looking good for a launch opportunity tonight." Additionally, looking three days ahead to when the crew is scheduled to return and splashdown off the Florida coast, the targeted landing sites are also expected to be clear.

Meet the Inspiration4 crew

The Inspiration4 crew in their SpaceX spacesuits, from left: Chris Sembroski, Dr. Sian Proctor, Jared Isaacman, and Hayley Arceneaux
John Kraus / Inspiration4