SpaceX's Dragon Cupola window dome looks utterly mind-blowing

SpaceX promised a breathtaking view of Earth from its new Crew Dragon, and astronauts from the upcoming Inspiration4 mission have revealed just how that super-exclusive window on the world will look. Set to be the first all-civilian mission to orbit, Inspiration4 will be groundbreaking in a number of ways, though it's the high-tech porthole SpaceX has designed which could be the most exciting feature.

So far, the Dragon spacecraft which SpaceX has used for resupply missions to the International Space Station has been outfitted with a docking system at its nose. That's required to connect with the orbiting research platform, and allow cargo to be loaded and unloaded.

The Crew Dragon Resilience which the Inspiration4 astronauts will fly aboard, however, isn't going to dock, and so SpaceX has prepared something unique. The Dragon Cupola is a toughened transparent hemisphere, allowing for an incredible view of space. It's protected during launch and reentry with a hinged nosecone.

SpaceX showed off renders of the design back in March, with CEO Elon Musk describing it as "probably most "in space" you could possibly feel by being in a glass dome."

Inspiration4's four-strong crew – Commander Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Chris Sembroski, and Dr. Sian Proctor – had a chance to see the flight hardware version of the Cupola in California. While the backdrop to their photos may be virtual now, eventually they'll be able to poke their heads into the glass dome and look out at the Earth – and space around it – after it's integrated with Crew Dragon Resilience.

That version of the spacecraft already has some miles under its figurative belt. It was used for the NASA Crew-1 mission back in November 2020, docking autonomously with the ISS as part of SpaceX's first operational crewed flight demonstration. After safely returning to Earth, SpaceX has been refurbishing the spacecraft for the Inspiration4 mission.

That's currently scheduled to launch on September 15, 2021. Crew Dragon Resilience will be mounted atop a Falcon 9 rocket, and blast off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. While the final destination isn't the ISS, the spacecraft is expected to spend several days in orbit before returning to Earth.