When SpaceX launches four civilian astronauts on the private Inspiration4 spaceflight, they're going to have the ultimate window: a glass dome offering panoramic views of Earth from space.
While SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft for the mission is already equipped with flat windows, the Inspiration4 mission — which is set to launch later this year with billionaire Jared Isaacman, who chartered the flight with SpaceX, commanding the crew — will include a unique domed window, allowing crew members to get a 360-degree view of their surroundings. That new window, and the Inspiration4 mission's full crew, were announced in a press conference today (March 30).
"Probably most 'in space' you could possibly feel by being in a glass dome," SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted about the window Tuesday (March 30).
Isaacman has emphasized that he wants to make the mission as inclusive as possible, and this dome is a part of that vision. The other Inspiration4 crew members include Chris Sembroski and Sian Proctor, who each won their seats as part of separate contests, also announced Tuesday, along with Hayley Arceneaux, who was selected earlier as an ambassador for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital.
"Jared keeps saying it's incredibly important to recognize that these are everyday people [who] get to go to space, and that gives me goosebumps even right now talking about it, but the fact that we can give everyday people the coolest window that's ever flown — that's awesome," Benji Reed, SpaceX's director of crew mission management, said during a news conference Tuesday.
The extra space is possible for the domed window because unlike most SpaceX capsules, which dock at the International Space Station, there is no need for a docking mechanism, Isaacman said.
"In terms of the engineering, the safety ... we've done all the engineering work," he added. "We will continue to go through all the analysis and testing and qualification to ensure everything is safe, and that it doesn't preclude any use of this spacecraft for other missions."
The design appears somewhat similar to the beloved Cupola window that is present in the International Space Station (ISS). The Cupola window flew to the orbiting complex with space shuttle mission STS-130 in February 2010; it allows astronauts to perform Earth observation for science experiments or spare time from an altitude of roughly 250 miles (400 kilometers).
Isaacman told reporters that the domed window that will be added to Crew Dragon for Inspiration4 is "similar to the Cupola" on the space station, calling it an "engineering marvel" on a small spacecraft. The crew members on Inspiration4 will have a different view of Earth than astronauts have on the space station, given the mission's higher orbit, he added.
"The orbital altitude that we're going to reach of north of 540 kilometers [355 miles] is actually symbolic, especially when you think about all of the missions that are going to follow ours, including the return to the moon," Isaacman said, referring to NASA's planned Artemis program to put humans on the moon later in the decade.
He hinted that the window could be used to perform science, too. "
We have reached out to a number of organizations to identify scientific research and other payload opportunities that our crew can support while we're on orbit," Isaacman said.
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Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace