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Image Credit: SpaceX.

Inspiration4 mission returns to Earth and raises $200 million for St. Jude

After three days in low Earth orbit, Crew Dragon Resilience and the four Inspiration4 crew members have safely returned to planet Earth on September 18, 2021 and splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida, USA. That brought and end to the historic first all-civilian human spaceflight mission and the first space tourism flight conducted by SpaceX.

The Inspiration4 mission

The Inspiration4 mission was a three-day crewed flight to Earth’s orbit and the world’s first all-civilian human spaceflight mission. The Crew Dragon spacecraft, that carried the four-person crew, blasted off from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on September 15 atop a Falcon 9 rocket.

The two-stage, partially-reusable, medium-lift launch vehicle successfully carried the spacecraft into a low Earth orbit. The capsule then utilized its own onboard Draco thrusters to raise the preliminary transfer orbit to an altitude of about 590 km, a height not reached by a crewed spacecraft since the STS-103 Space Shuttle mission to the Hubble Space Telecope in 1999.

For the next three days, the Inspiration4 crew, consisting of Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Chris Sembroski and Dr. Sian Proctor, enjoyed planet Earth from space, conducted experiments on the effects of spaceflight on the human body and raised money for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.

Crew Dragon Resilience and the Inspiration4 crew blast off atop a Falcon 9 rocket. Image Credit: SpaceX.
Crew Dragon Resilience and the Inspiration4 crew blast off atop a Falcon 9 rocket. Image Credit: SpaceX.

The Inspiration4 crew members

Jared Isaacman

Jared Isaacman is the founder and CEO of Shift4 Payments, an adventurer and accomplished jet pilot, holding several world records, including two Speed-Around-The-World flight records. Isaacman, who payed for the whole flight, was the mission’s commander.

Hayley Arceneaux

Hayley Arceneaux is a physician assistant at the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and a pediatric cancer survivor, who was treated at the St. Jude Hospital. With an age of 29, Arceneaux is now the youngest American to orbit planet Earth. She was the mission’s medical officer.

Chris Sembroski

Chris Sembroski is an aerospace data engineer and an U.S. Air Force veteran. He was the mission’s mission specialist.

Dr. Sian Proctor

Dr. Sian Proctor, the fourth member of the Inspiration4 mission, is a geoscientist, entrepreneur and trained pilot. She served as the Crew Dragon’s pilot during the multi-day spaceflight.

The Inspiration4 crew onboard Crew Dragon. From left to right: Chris Sembroski, Dr. Sian Proctor, Jared Isaacman and Hayley Arceneaux. Image Credit: SpaceX.
The Inspiration4 crew onboard Crew Dragon. From left to right: Chris Sembroski, Dr. Sian Proctor, Jared Isaacman and Hayley Arceneaux. Image Credit: SpaceX.

The landing

Ahead of the landing back on Earth, the Crew Dragon capsule had to conduct two phasing burns to lower its altitude from 590 km to 365 km.

About an hour before splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean, the Dragon spacecraft jettisoned its trunk, which up to that point provided the required electricity to the vehicle.

This was soon followed by a ~15 minutes long deorbit burn of Dragon’s Draco thrusters and the subsequent closing of the capsule’s nose cone.

Around ten minutes prior to the expected landing on Earth, the Dragon begun re-entering Earth’s atmosphere and to decelerate due to the atmospheric drag. During that phase of flight, communications with the capsule was interrupted due to plasma forming around Dragon.

Five minutes later, communications had been restored and Resilience deployed two drogue parachutes to stabilize itself.

At 23:04 UTC, the two drogues were jettisoned and the vehicle deployed its four large main parachutes to slow down even further.

At 23:06 UTC, the Inspiration4 crew splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida, bringing an end to their historic spaceflight.

Resilience splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean. Image Credit: SpaceX.
Resilience splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean. Image Credit: SpaceX.

Within less than an hour, the capsule was secured by recovery forces and the Dragon was hoisted onboard SpaceX’ recovery vessel Go Searcher.

After all four crew members had egressed the vehicle and had undergone some medical checks, they were flown back to shore, to reunite with their families and friend.


Sources:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dpFKNNl47AM

https://inspiration4.com/mission

https://www.spacex.com/launches/

https://inspiration4.com/crew

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