Launch of Inspiration4 on a Falcon 9
Mission typePrivate spaceflight
COSPAR ID2021-084A Edit this at Wikidata
SATCAT no.49220 Edit this at Wikidata
Mission duration
  • 2 days, 23 hours, 3 minutes
Spacecraft properties
SpacecraftCrew Dragon Resilience
Spacecraft typeCrew Dragon
Launch mass12,519 kg (27,600 lb)
Landing mass9,616 kg (21,200 lb)
Start of mission
Launch date16 September 2021, 00:02:56 UTC
RocketFalcon 9 Block 5 (B1062.3)
Launch siteKennedy Space Center, LC-39A
End of mission
Recovered byMV GO Searcher
Landing date18 September 2021, 23:06:49 UTC [1]
Landing siteAtlantic Ocean
Orbital parameters
Reference systemGeocentric orbit[2]
RegimeLow Earth orbit
Altitude585 km (364 mi)
Period96.2 minutes
Inspiration4 spaceflight participant mission patch SpaceX mission patch
Inspiration4 mission patches (SpaceX patch on right)

Proctor, Isaacman, Sembroski and Arceneaux 

Inspiration4 (stylized as Inspirati④n) was a 2021 human spaceflight operated by SpaceX on behalf of Shift4 Payments CEO Jared Isaacman.[3] The mission launched the Crew Dragon Resilience on 16 September 2021 at 00:02:56 UTC[a] from Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A atop a Falcon 9 launch vehicle. It placed the Dragon capsule into low Earth orbit[4] with mission termination on 18 September 2021 at 23:06:49 UTC[4] when Resilience splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean.

The trip was the first orbital spaceflight with only private citizens aboard and was part of a charitable effort on behalf of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.[3] Isaacman was named mission commander. The hospital selected two commercial astronauts: Hayley Arceneaux and Christopher Sembroski. Shift4 selected Sian Proctor who was named pilot.

The mission overlapped with the 55th anniversary of Gemini 11, which in September 1966 had an apogee of approximately 1,368 km (850 mi), the highest Earth orbit ever reached on a crewed flight. The Inspiration4 flight reached an orbital altitude of approximately 585 km (364 mi), the highest achieved since STS-103 in 1999 and the fifth-highest Earth orbital human spaceflight overall. By comparison, the International Space Station is at 408 km (254 mi). The Inspiration4 mission concluded with the first crewed splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean since Apollo 9 in 1969.

Trip and crew

Inspiration4 was the first human spaceflight to orbit Earth with only private citizens on board.[5][b] The trip promoted and raised money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. The crew and trip intended to raise upwards of US$100 million to expand St. Jude's childhood cancer research.[7][8][9] Isaacman and his wife, Monica, personally donated US$125 million to the hospital, and contributions by SpaceX founder Elon Musk (US$55 million) and many others ultimately raised the total given to St. Jude to more than US$243 million, far more than initial target amount.[10]

Inspiration4 was led by Shift4 Payments CEO Jared Isaacman, an experienced pilot with qualification in military jets.[11][12] Isaacman procured the flight and its four seats from SpaceX and donated two of the seats to St. Jude. Hayley Arceneaux, a physician assistant at the hospital and a survivor of bone cancer, was selected by the hospital to board the flight.[13] St. Jude raffled the second seat as part of a successful campaign to raise US$200 million for the hospital, termed St. Jude Mission: Inspired.[14][15] A raffle draw competition was held, in which entrants needed to be a US citizen and had to donate a significant amount of money between US$10 to US$10,000. Kyle Hippchen, from Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University, donated US$600 and ultimately won the raffle but decided to give the seat to his friend, U.S. Air Force veteran Christopher Sembroski, who had also entered the raffle by donating US$50. Hippchen weighed in over the allowed limit.[16][17][18][19] Entrepreneur Sian Proctor was selected by Shift4 Payments to board the flight through a competition modeled after Shark Tank that rewarded the best business idea to make use of Shift4's commerce solutions.[20] The panelists in the competition included Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, Fast Company editor Stephanie Mehta, former NASA engineer Mark Rober and Bar Rescue host Jon Taffer.[21]

Resilience was the first spacecraft to orbit with an all-rookie crew since Shenzhou 7 in 2008. The last time NASA launched an all-rookie orbital crew was STS-2 in 1981.[c]

All four received commercial astronaut training by SpaceX. The training included lessons in orbital mechanics, operating in a microgravity environment, stress testing, emergency-preparedness training and mission simulations.[20][22] Afterwards, on 25 September 2021, CNN reported that an alarm had sounded during the journey which was found to be associated with an apparent toilet malfunction.[23]

Position Commercial Astronauts
Mission Commander United States Jared Isaacman[14] "Rook"
First spaceflight
Pilot United States Sian Proctor[24] "Leo"
First spaceflight
Medical Officer United States Hayley Arceneaux[13] "Nova"
First spaceflight
Payload Specialist United States Christopher Sembroski[24] "Hanks"
First spaceflight


Artist's rendering of Resilience for Inspiration4, with its nose cone open, revealing the cupola

The Inspiration4 mission was the second flight of Resilience, following its use for Crew-1.[20][25] It also marked the fourth crewed flight of a Crew Dragon.[26] The spacecraft's docking adapter, normally used to dock with the International Space Station, was replaced for this mission by a single monolithic multi-layer domed plexiglass[27] window inspired by the Cupola module, allowing 360° views outside Resilience's nose.[28] The cupola was protected during launch and re-entry by the spacecraft's retractable nosecone, which also housed a custom camera, enabling photography of the vehicle's interior and exterior during flight.[29] The cupola is removable so that Resilience can easily be reconfigured for missions in the future that require docking.[29] Four Draco thrusters on the spacecraft's nose necessitated the installation of four heat shield tiles on the cupola's exterior, which protected the plexiglass dome from engine exhaust during propulsive maneuvers.[29]


The launch of Inspiration4

Resilience launched on 16 September 2021 at 00:02:56 UTC (15 September 2021 at 20:02:56 EDT)[30] atop Falcon 9 Block 5 booster B1062 from Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A. It was the third flight of this booster.[31] The spacecraft was launched into an inclination of 51.6°. With Resilience in orbit, three Dragon spacecraft were simultaneously orbiting Earth, as Endeavour flies the Crew-2 mission and C208 flies the CRS-23 mission. Inspiration4 was the first crewed orbital spaceflight since STS-125 in 2009 to not visit a space station.[32]

Each crew member was assigned an individual call sign for communications. Isaacman's call sign was "Rook", Proctor's was "Leo", Arceneaux's was "Nova" and Sembroski's was "Hanks."[33]

As the second stage engine of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket cut off, Arceneaux reached into a pouch strapped to her leg and pulled out a plush toy dog that represents the therapy dogs employed by St. Jude. The toy, attached to a tether, began to float above Arceneaux's head and in doing so fulfilled its purpose as the Inspiration4 mission's "zero-g indicator". Hanging in the air, it provided a visual signal to Arceneaux and her three crewmates that they were now in the microgravity environment of outer space after reaching Earth orbit on 16 September 2021.[34]

The mission planned to include ultrasounds, microbe samples and a variety of in-flight health experiments (measure fluid shifts, record ECG activity, blood oxygen levels, heart rates, etc.) on the human bodies of ordinary citizens who have not been previously carefully screened and exhaustively trained as professional astronauts.[35] The study of the effects of spaceflight on human health and performance was done in collaboration with SpaceX, the Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) at Baylor College of Medicine and investigators at Weill Cornell Medicine.[36] During the journey, an alarm had sounded, and was found to be associated with an apparent toilet malfunction.[23]

On 18 September 2021, at 23:06:49 UTC, Resilience splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean north of Cape Canaveral and was picked up by recovery ship GO Searcher roughly forty minutes afterward. Arceneaux was first to exit the spacecraft, followed by Proctor, Sembroski and Isaacman.[37]

Orbital altitude

External videos
Launch and splashdown of the Inspiration4 mission on YouTube
video icon Inspiration4 | Launch
video icon Splashdown

The flight plan aimed for an altitude of at least 575 km (357 mi), and reached an altitude of 585 km (364 mi),[38] a height surpassing STS-48 in 1991 which had an apogee of 580 km (360 mi), and the highest crewed spaceflight since STS-103 in 1999 with an apogee of 610 km (380 mi). STS-31, the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope, at 621 km (386 mi) was the highest of the Space Shuttle program and third highest ever behind only two missions of the Gemini Program, Gemini 10 and Gemini 11 in 1966 with apogees of 756 km (470 mi) and 1,368 km (850 mi), respectively, making Inspiration4 the fifth highest Earth orbital crewed spaceflight in history; only 10 Apollo launches went beyond Earth's orbit. Achieving this altitude exposed the craft and crew to different radiation levels than those found on the International Space Station.[5] The investigation of the effects of spaceflight on human health and performance was done in collaboration with SpaceX, the Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) at Baylor College of Medicine, and investigators at Weill Cornell Medicine.[36]

Inspiration4 orbited at this altitude for two days and then lowered its altitude to about 365 km (227 mi) which it kept during the final day of the mission, in preparation for the re-entry and landing.[39]

Media coverage

Media coverage of the mission has been widely positive, noting its charitable focus, duration and altitude achieved.[40][41] The mission was documented in real time in a five-episode docuseries entitled Countdown: Inspiration4 Mission to Space, released on the subscription streaming service Netflix in September 2021. The crew also starred in a Netflix special named "A StoryBots Space Adventure" released also in Netflix. The special is also posted in Youtube.[42]

See also


  1. ^ 15 September 2021, 20:02:56 Eastern Daylight Time (EDT)
  2. ^ Many sources use the term "all-civilian". The Washington Post clarified its use of this term in one of its headlines when it later said "comprised entirely of civilians – nongovernment astronauts".[6]
  3. ^ STS-2 Commander Joe Engle was a NASA space flight rookie, but had been awarded U.S. Air Force Astronaut wings for passing 50 mi (80 km) while flying the X-15 rocket plane.


  1. ^ "JSR No. 797". Jonathan's Space Report. 18 September 2021. Retrieved 19 September 2021.
  2. ^ Inspiration4 (30 March 2021). Meet The First All-Civilian Space Crew | Inspiration4 Livestream. Retrieved 30 March 2021 – via YouTube.((cite AV media)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ a b Overbye, Dennis (21 September 2021). "What a Fungus Reveals About the Space Program - One thing's for sure: Escaping the dung heap doesn't come cheap". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 September 2021.
  4. ^ a b Gorman, Steve (13 September 2021). "SpaceX prepares to send first all-civilian crew into orbit". Reuters. Archived from the original on 22 September 2021. Retrieved 17 September 2021.
  5. ^ a b Davenport, Christian (13 September 2021). "They "could be our neighbors", and they're going to space. SpaceX gets ready to fly the Inspiration4 crew". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 13 September 2021. Retrieved 15 September 2021.
  6. ^ Davenport, Christian (15 September 2021). "SpaceX makes history by launching Inspiration4, first all-civilian crew, to orbit". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 16 September 2021. Retrieved 16 September 2021. The Inspiration4 mission may be the first time a spaceflight crew is comprised entirely of civilians – nongovernment astronauts. There has been a long history of ordinary citizens going to space. In fact, that was NASA's goal at the beginning of the space shuttle era – to fly regular people on a routine basis
  7. ^ Davenport, Christian (25 February 2021). "As private companies erode government's hold on space travel, NASA looks to open a new frontier". The Washington Post. Retrieved 26 February 2021.
  8. ^ Chow, Denise (1 February 2021). "SpaceX announces first mission to space with all-civilian crew". NBC News. Archived from the original on 1 February 2021. Retrieved 1 February 2021.
  9. ^ Burghardt, Thomas (1 February 2021). "SpaceX announces Inspiration4, all-civilian space mission in support of St Jude's Hospital". Retrieved 23 February 2021.
  10. ^ "SpaceX Flight Ultimately Raised $243M for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital". Archived from the original on 12 March 2022. Retrieved 13 February 2022.
  11. ^ Segran, Elizabeth (13 April 2015). "Meet The Fighter-Jet-Flying 32-Year-Old On Top Of The Payments Industry". Fast Company. Retrieved 23 August 2020.
  12. ^ Tognini, Giacomo (7 October 2020). "Meet The New Billionaire Who Dropped Out of High School and Flies Fighter Jets for Fun". Forbes. Retrieved 1 February 2021.
  13. ^ a b Dunn, Marcia (22 February 2021). "Bone cancer survivor to join billionaire on SpaceX flight". Associated Press. AP News. Archived from the original on 22 February 2021. Retrieved 22 February 2021.
  14. ^ a b Leinfelder, Andrea (1 February 2021). "SpaceX, tech entrepreneur Jared Isaacman invite the public to apply for ride into space". Houston Chronicle. Archived from the original on 1 February 2021. Retrieved 1 February 2021.
  15. ^ "New fundraising challenge tied to Inspiration4 launches today for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital" (Press release). St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. 1 March 2021. Retrieved 16 September 2021.
  16. ^ Dunn, Marcia (27 January 2022). "He won a trip to space. Then he gave it away to a friend". Associated Press. Retrieved 28 January 2022.
  17. ^ Muhlstein, Julie (18 April 2021). "Everett's own spaceman thrilled to join all-civilian mission". The Everett Herald. Retrieved 23 April 2021.
  18. ^ Cuthbertson, Anthony (2 April 2021). "SpaceX reveals civilian passengers for trip into space this year". The Independent. Retrieved 3 April 2021.
  19. ^ Sheetz, Michael (15 September 2021). "SpaceX's historic Inspiration4 launch reaches orbit successfully carrying private crew". CNBC. Retrieved 16 September 2021.
  20. ^ a b c Chang, Kenneth (1 February 2021). "To Get on This SpaceX Flight, You Don't Have to Be Rich, Just Lucky". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 1 February 2021. Retrieved 1 February 2021.
  21. ^ Bianco, Brian (24 February 2021). "Inspiration4 Reveals Panel of Influential Judges to Select Entrepreneur to Join First All-Civilian Mission to Space" (Press release). Business Wire. Retrieved 24 February 2021.
  22. ^ Stimac, Valerie (1 February 2021). "SpaceX Announces First All-Civilian Mission To Space, Inspiration4". Forbes. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  23. ^ a b Wattles, Jackie (25 September 2021). "An alarm went off on SpaceX's all-tourist space flight. The problem was the toilet". CNN. Retrieved 25 September 2021.
  24. ^ a b Sheetz, Michael (30 March 2021). "Meet the full crew of the Inspiration4 mission flying with SpaceX in September". CNBC. Archived from the original on 31 March 2021. Retrieved 31 March 2021.
  25. ^ Berger, Eric (1 February 2021). "SpaceX announces first "free flyer" human spaceflight". Ars Technica. Archived from the original on 1 February 2021. Retrieved 1 February 2021.
  26. ^ Christian Davenport (15 September 2021). "SpaceX makes history by launching Inspiration4, first all-civilian crew, to orbit". The Washington Post.
  27. ^ Clark, Stephen (17 September 2021). "Inspiration4 crew describes "incredible perspective" from space". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 4 December 2022.
  28. ^ Malik, Tariq (3 September 2021). "SpaceX shows off its huge dome window on Dragon for private Inspiration4 spaceflight". Retrieved 3 September 2021.
  29. ^ a b c "SpaceX Inspiration4 astronauts reveal Dragon's "cupola" in the flesh". Teslarati. 2 September 2021. Retrieved 2 September 2021.
  30. ^ Kan, Michael (16 September 2021). "Inspiration 4 Successfully Blasts Off for the First All-Civilian Orbital Space Flight". PC Mag. Retrieved 16 September 2021.
  31. ^ Thompson, Amy (16 September 2021). "SpaceX launches four civilians into orbit on historic Inspiration4 flight". Retrieved 17 September 2021.
  32. ^ Williams, Matt (16 September 2021). "SpaceX Launches Four Civilians to Space with Inspiration4!". Universe Today. Retrieved 17 September 2021.
  33. ^ Thompson, Amy (15 September 2021). "Inspiration4's call signs: The crew of SpaceX's all-civilian mission have special nicknames". Retrieved 15 September 2021.
  34. ^ "Inspiration4 "space puppy" doubles as zero-g indicator and fundraiser". 15 September 2021. Retrieved 16 September 2021.
  35. ^ Thompson, Amy (15 September 2021). "Inspiration4 crew planning ultrasounds, microbe samples and more to understand health during flight". Retrieved 16 September 2021.
  36. ^ a b Gohd, Chelsea (1 September 2021). "Inspiration4 astronauts to conduct health research on private SpaceX mission". Retrieved 16 September 2021.
  37. ^ "SpaceX's private Inspiration4 crew returns to Earth with historic splashdown off Florida coast". 18 September 2021. Retrieved 19 September 2021.
  38. ^ @spacex (15 September 2021). "Second phasing burn complete. Dragon and the @inspiration4x crew have reached a circular orbit of 585km – a new Dragon altitude record" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  39. ^ @planet4589 (18 September 2021). "Latest TLEs for Insp4 show it in a 360 x 369 km x 51.6 deg orbit following yesterday evenings orbit lowering burns" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  40. ^ "SpaceX's latest mission was an infomercial (For charity)". 15 September 2021.
  41. ^ "Alien Newsletter #10: The Simultaneous Rise and Fall of the Anthropocene". 16 September 2021.
  42. ^ A StoryBots Space Adventure FULL EPISODE | Netflix Jr, retrieved 17 March 2024