Virgin Galactic’s Next Challenge: The Flight of the Vested?

Richard Branson and other passengers float around in weightlessness. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

This was supposed to be the Summer of Virgin Galactic. The company would complete the three remaining suborbital flight tests of SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity, the second one with Richard Branson aboard. The company’s newest space tourism vehicle, SpaceShipIII, would begin its flight tests.

Once VSS Unity tests were complete, engineers would spend four months making a series of repairs and upgrades to the spacecraft and its WhiteKnightTwo mothership, VMS Eve. And then in early 2022, the company would use both spaceships to fly tourists on suborbital joy rides that were originally projected to begin 15 years earlier in 2007.

Sounds easy enough, right? It wasn’t. The Summer of Virgin Galactic went about as well as the Summer of George on Seinfeld. If best laid plans of mice, men and Costanzas often go awry, Virgin Galactic’s schedules are guaranteed to move significantly to the right. Years to the right.

(more…)

This Week in Elon: Musk Mocks Biden Amid Cooler Political Climate, Federal Investigation of Tesla

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

It seems that Elon Musk is a bit peeved that President Joe Biden didn’t congratulate SpaceX on completing the privately-funded Inspiration4 crewed mission last week and helping to raise $210 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“He’s still sleeping,” Musk wrote in response to a question from a Twitter follower about Biden’s silence. It was a clear reference to ex-President Donald Trump’s description of him as “sleepy Joe” during the campaign.

The remark set off the usual battle on social media. Musk’s legion of defenders called the omission unforgivable. Musk’s critics noted his willingness to amply praise authoritarian China where Musk’s Tesla Motors has a manufacturing plant even as he called U.S. officials “fascists” for their efforts to contain the deadly COVID-19 virus.

For his part, Jared Isaacman, the billionaire who funded and commanded the Inspiration4 flight, says Biden’s silence is no big deal.

(more…)

SpaceX Projects Higher Commercial Flight Rate; Musk Donation Sends St. Jude Fund-raising Campaign Over the Top

Crew Dragon splashes down with Inspiration4 crew. (Credit: Inspiration4)

A few notes on the Inspiration4 mission:

Big Demand for Flights

SpaceX senior director for human spaceflight Benji Reed said yesterday that the company wants to ramp up to six private commercial human spaceflights per year.

“There’s nothing really that limits our capability to launch. It’s about having rockets and Dragons ready to go and having everything in the manifest align with our other launches,” he said.

SpaceX officials said they received many inquiries about future bookings since the Inspiration4 mission was launched on a three-day Earth orbiting flight on Wednesday.

Axiom Space is sending four people to the International Space Station in January using SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft. The mission will include three paying passengers and be led by an Axiom executive who is a former NASA astronaut.

Fundraising Campaign Succeeds

SpaceX founder Elon Musk pledge of $50 million to Inspiration4’s fund-raising campaign for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital brought the total raised to $210 million, which is $10 million above the original goal. St. Jude will use the funds to conduct cancer research.

Billionaire Jared Isaacman, who commanded the mission, donated the first $100 million to the campaign. The other $60 million was raised through online donations. There is also an ongoing auction of items flown on the mission that will bring in more money.

Inspiration4 Crew Makes Evening Splashdown, Completing World’s First All-Civilian Orbital Mission to Space

Crew Dragon splashes down with Inspiration4 crew. (Credit: Inspiration4)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., September 18, 2021 (Inspiration4 PR) – After three days orbiting Earth, the astronauts of Inspiration4  flying aboard SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft safely splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Kennedy Space Center, Florida, at 7:06 p.m. EDT. The return marks the completion of the world’s first all-civilian human spaceflight to orbit, which launched on a flight-proven SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021.

(more…)

Inspiration4 Mission Announces Splashdown Time to Return from Orbit

Inspiration4 crew in orbit. (Credit: Inspiration4)

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL, September 17, 2021 (Inspiration4 PR) – Tonight Inspiration4, the world’s first all-civilian human spaceflight mission to orbit, shared the crew would return tomorrow, September 18, with a targeted splashdown at 7:06 p.m. EDT in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida. To prepare for this return, Dragon completed two burns tonight to reduce the spacecraft’s altitude to approximately 365km and line up the ground track with the landing site. A timeline of activities for Dragon’s return to Earth and splashdown is available on SpaceX’s website.

(more…)

Inspiration4 Mission Launches into Orbit

Falcon 9 launches the privately-funded Inspiration4 mission into orbit. (Credit: Inspiration4)

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL, September 15, 2021 (Inspiration4 PR) – On September 15 the crew of Inspiration4, the world’s first all-civilian human spaceflight mission to orbit, officially ushered in a new era of space exploration at 8:02:56 PM EDT as SpaceX’s Falcon 9 lifted off from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. 

(more…)

NASA Enables Commercial Crew, Private Astronaut Missions

The SpaceX Crew Dragon is pictured after undocking from the forward port on the Harmony module beginning its short trip to the space-facing port. (Credit: NASA TV)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — When SpaceX launches its Inspiration4 mission with four crew members to space, it will be the company’s first fully private launch with astronauts to orbit. Although not a NASA mission, the flight embodies the agency’s vision and work to foster a strong space economy, with private companies providing commercial transportation to space for people and cargo as well as creating future commercial destinations in space.

(more…)

Weather Conditions 70% Favorable for Launch of Inspiration4 Launch Tonight

Inspiration4 crew members Chris Sembroski, Sian Proctor, Jared Isaacman and Hayley Arceneaux. (Credit: Inspiration4)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Inspiration4 PR) – Teams from SpaceX and Inspiration4 are now targeting a five-hour launch window for the Inspiration4 mission opening at 8:02 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, September 15. If needed for any reason, a backup window is available opening at 8:05 p.m. EDT on Thursday, September 16. 

(more…)

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month Blasts off in an Unforgettable Way for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Hayley Arceneaux (Credit: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital)

St. Jude physician assistant, cancer survivor Hayley Arceneaux launches into space, Netflix releases documentary on Inspiration4, auctions planned, communities everywhere team up for virtual St. Jude Walk/Run, 60+ celebrities lend support on social media.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital PR) — During Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September, witness how the sky is no limit for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital®. St. Jude physician assistant and pediatric cancer survivor Hayley Arceneaux will launch into space on the world’s first all-civilian mission to orbit called Inspiration4 on Wednesday, Sept. 15. Communities, celebrities and influencers everywhere will also team up for virtual St. Jude Walk/Run on Sept. 25.

(more…)

Inspiration4 Reveals Mission Payload Highlights, Including the First-ever Minted NFT song to Go into Space

The Kings of Leon (Credit: Inspiration4)

Song from Grammy award-winning rock band Kings of Leon one of several items to be auctioned beginning Sept. 9 to support $200 million fundraising effort for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Sept. 9, 2021) – Astronauts have long brought interesting items into space, dating back to the very first Mercury mission in 1961. But with Inspiration4, the first all-civilian mission to orbit, the crew will be taking not just personal mementos but things that didn’t exist even a year ago, much less 60 years ago. Indeed, their payload will include the first-ever minted NFT song to be played in orbit, created by the Grammy Award-winning rock band Kings of Leon.

(more…)

Inspiration4 Crew Arrives in Florida, Targeting September 15 Launch

Inspiration4 crew members Chris Sembroski, Sian Proctor, Jared Isaacman and Hayley Arceneaux. (Credit: Inspiration4)

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL, September 10, 2021 (Inspiration4 PR) – After completing their final day of astronaut training at SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California on Wednesday, September 8, the crew of Inspiration4 arrived in Florida on Thursday, September 9, landing at Space Florida’s Launch and Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center just before noon.

(more…)

Trailer for Netflix’s Series on Inspiration4 Mission — Part I Debuts Today

VIDEO CAPTION: This September, we’re taking the next epic leap forward into space exploration. 4 civilians. Orbiting earth. On their own. Countdown: Inspiration4 Mission to Space is a documentary series that will cover the events in near real-time, airing in five parts leading up to and after the mission, only on Netflix.

  • EPISODES 1/2: MEET THE CREW – WATCH GLOBALLY ON NETFLIX SEPT 6
  • EPISODES 3/4: PREPARE FOR LAUNCH – WATCH GLOBALLY ON NETFLIX SEPT 13 LIVE LAUNCH: WATCH ON NETFLIX YOUTUBE ON SEPT 15
  • EPISODE 5: THE RETURN HOME – WATCH GLOBALLY ON NETFLIX LATE SEPT

This September, four civilians will launch into space for a multi-day trip orbiting Earth, targeting approximately a 575km orbit, flying farther from Earth than any human since Hubble. Led and commanded by Jared Isaacman, the founder and CEO of Shift4 Payments, the SpaceX Dragon mission, named Inspiration4, will make history as the world’s first all-civilian mission into orbit.

Directed by Emmy Award® winner Jason Hehir (The Last Dance), COUNTDOWN: INSPIRATION4 MISSION TO SPACE, the first Netflix documentary series to cover an event in near real-time, boldly captures the most ambitious step to date in the rapidly-developing age of civilian space exploration. With exclusive access to the trailblazing mission, the unprecedented series will premiere in five parts, taking viewers behind the scenes with the four crew members who are raising funds and awareness for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital®.

From their unconventional selection and intensive months-long commercial astronaut training, to the intimate moments leading up to liftoff, their dream opportunity becomes a reality – with all the mental, physical, and emotional challenges that come along with it. The final episode, which premieres just days after the mission is completed, will capture the historic launch and the crew’s journey into space, culminating in their triumphant splashdown and return to Earth.

To learn more about St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, go to https://www.stjude.org/