The first all-private space mission has lifted off atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. With a crew of four inside a Dragon Crew capsule, the Inspiration4 mission launched today at 8:03 pm EDT on a three-day flight to raise funds for the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.
Today's launch went off without a major delay under a clear night sky at the start of a five-hour launch window. The first stage of the Falcon 9 shut down at the two-minute-and-37-second mark with the second stage separating and firing three seconds later. As the first stage carried out a re-entry burn for a powered landing on a recovery barge in the Atlantic Ocean, the second stage burned for six minutes and 10 seconds. Then, 12 minutes and nine seconds into the flight, the Dragon capsule Reliance separated from the second stage.
The spacecraft is currently carrying out a series of orbital maneuvers that will bring it to an altitude of 575 km (357 miles). This will be the ninth highest altitude reached by a crewed mission and the highest since the STS-61 Space Shuttle mission in 1993 to service the Hubble Space Telescope.