Businessman plans first all-civilian SpaceX flight to benefit St. Jude’s hospital

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with Crew-1 lifts off from Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI

ORLANDO, Fla., Feb. 1 (UPI) — SpaceX announced plans on Monday for the first all-civilian mission to space in late 2021 — a days long orbit of the Earth, to be led by finance company executive and pilot Jared Isaacman.

Isaacman has purchased a four-person mission in a SpaceX Dragon capsule to launch atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Florida.

The cost of the mission wasn’t disclosed, but Isaacman pledged to donate $100 million to Memphis-based St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in connection with the space flight.

The mission is “an important milestone toward enabling access to space for everyone because at first things are very expensive, and as only through missions like this that we’re able to bring the cost down over time and make space accessible,” Musk said during a news conference Monday evening.

Isaacman also promised, in a news release, to hold a raffle for one of the four seats on the Dragon mission — to prompt efforts to raise $200 million for the hospital.

Isaacman is the 37-year-old founder and chief executive officer of publicly-traded Shift4 Payments, an electronic payment company based in Allentown, Pa.

The mission is named Inspiration4, to “send a humanitarian message of possibility,” according to a news release.

Isaacman is donating two mission seats in the four-person capsule to crew members who will “represent the mission pillars of leadership, hope, generosity and prosperity,” according to the announcement.

The Inspiration4 mission announcement follows a similar reveal last week that Houston-based Axiom Space had arranged a four-person private crew to fly on a SpaceX mission to the International Space Station in January 2021.

The pilot for that mission is former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría, who will ferry three wealthy businessmen paying $55 million each for their seats. They also intend to support non-profit causes with research and educational events in space.

Isaacman and the Inspiration4 crew won’t fly to the space station; instead, they will orbit the Earth for several days and splashdown in waters off the coast of Florida.

Isaacman and the crew will undergo commercial astronaut training by SpaceX on the Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft. Isaacman has flown around the globe, for which he holds a speed record.

Isaacman has given St. Jude two seats on the Inspiration4 mission.

One seat is reserved for a St. Jude ambassador chosen by the hospital, while the other seat will carry someone who represents “generosity” to the hospital — particularly for a multi-billion dollar expansion the hospital plans to accelerate cancer research advancements for children.

Isaacman will collaborate with Shift4 Payments to offer a seat on the mission to an entrepreneur who uses the e-commerce platform, which will hold an online competition showcasing them and their business.

The competition will be conducted throughout February with an independent panel of judges, the company said in a news release.

Shift4 Payments intends to advertise the mission this Sunday during Super Bowl LV.


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