SpaceX's milestone Inspiration4 launch gets a blast-off date

SpaceX has set a date for the Inspiration4 launch, the first all-civilian mission to use the company's Dragon spacecraft. The historic flight will see four would-be astronauts blast off from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center, and spend several days in orbit around Earth.

The mission is being used to raise funds for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, but also to focus attention on the upcoming age of civilian spaceflight. Although SpaceX has run missions now with NASA astronauts onboard, Inspiration4 will be the first time an entirely civilian crew will be inside the spacecraft.

According to the rocket company, with the Falcon 9's static fire test completed, the target is now this coming Wednesday, September 15 for the actual launch. There'll be a five hour long launch window, starting at 8:02pm EDT.

As with any rocket launch, things can change based on a whole host of factors. Probably the most significant is weather; currently, Inspiration4 says that the forecasts suggest 70-percent favorable conditions. That's not just a matter of what the weather will be like when the rocket blasts off, but what the conditions could be when it's time for the Inspiration4 crew to return.

"Teams selected the five-hour launch window based upon weather forecasts for the launch site, along the ascent corridor, and possible landing locations off the coasts of Florida for a safe return of the crew and splashdown a few days later," Inspiration4 explains. Both the Falcon 9 rocket and the Dragon spacecraft will be reused, underscoring SpaceX's ongoing efforts to reduce the cost and complexity of commercial spaceflight.

In the build-up to blastoff, SpaceX and the Inspiration4 crew have been going through a "dry dress" of the big day. That's basically a full rehearsal of how September 15 should go. If Wednesday proves to be a non-starter, there's a backup window for the launch that begins at 8:05pm EDT the following day, Thursday, September 16.

Onboard will be a carefully selected crew of four. Mission commander is Jared Isaacman, of Shift4 payments; he'll be accompanied by Hayley Arceneaux, Chris Sembroski, and Dr. Sian Proctor. While they'll be spending some of their time in orbit admiring the view through a specially created cupola window built into the Dragon 9 spacecraft, they'll also be undertaking research specially selected for the flight.