Private Pilot Found Crew Dragon Training ‘Intense’

Inspiration4 crew
Inspiration4 crew from left Chris Sembroski, Sian Proctor, Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux.
Credit: John Kraus/Inspiration4

CAPE CANAVERAL—After an intensive five and a half months of training, private pilot Jared Isaacman and his three-member crew are preparing for a three-day orbital flight aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule, the first all-civilian private space charter. 

“The training was way more intense than I expected,” Isaacman, 38, the billionaire founder of the Shift4 Payments commerce company, told Aerospace DAILY ahead of launch. “I definitely underestimated the commitment, which is awesome because I really loved every minute of it.”

Isaacman, who chartered the Crew Dragon mission from SpaceX for himself and three crewmates, is scheduled to lift off aboard a Falcon 9 rocket at 8:02 p.m EDT on Sept. 15 from Kennedy Space Center. After three days in orbit, the crew plan to splash down off the coast of Florida. 

The mission, known as Inspiration4 (I4), will be SpaceX’s fourth human spaceflight and first without NASA oversight and NASA astronauts. Instead, after nearly six months of training by SpaceX, Isaacman, who took up flying as a teenager, will serve as the I4 commander and financier.

“When you learn to fly a new jet you get the manual, the Dash-1, you read through it a few times, take some notes and demonstrate competency and then you go fly. It can happen pretty quick,” Isaacman said. 

“I had in my mind—I don’t know why—that you’d get one big manual on how to go to space and how Falcon and Dragon work. It turns out it’s like 60 PDFs and PowerPoints and a lot of academics.

“Obviously, there are a lot of differences between flying an aircraft in an atmosphere and a spacecraft without one, so it was a lot to learn,” Isaacman said. “It was a real pleasure, but I definitely underestimated the intensity.”

Isaaacman said learning how to operate Dragon was very intuitive. “Sitting down in front of Dragon and navigating through the screens, they present information in a very logical way. I expected it to be awesome and it was.”

Stepping into the Crew Dragon pilot’s role will be Sian Proctor, 51, a lifelong space enthusiast, artist and community college geosciences professor. Proctor joined the I4 crew after winning an entrepreneurial business competition sponsored by Isaacman’s company, Shift4 Payments. 

They will be joined by Hayley Arceneaux, 29, a St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital physicians assistant, and Christopher Sembroski, 42, a data engineer with Lockheed Martin.  

Arceneaux was offered a spot on the I4 crew to serve as an ambassador for the hospital, for which Isaacman hopes to raise $200 million. (Isaacman contributed the first $100 million.) As a child, Arceneaux was treated at the hospital for bone cancer and has a prosthesis in her left leg.

Sembroski claimed a seat on I4 after a college friend won but declined the grand prize in a fundraiser sweepstakes for St. Jude.

After weeks of Zoom calls, the crew met in person for the first time on April 1 and began training shortly thereafter at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, and elsewhere.

SpaceX began flying NASA astronauts to the International Space Station in 2020. In addition to the I4 mission, the company was hired by Houston-based Axiom Space to fly two private astronaut crews to the station beginning early next year.

Irene Klotz

Irene Klotz is Senior Space Editor for Aviation Week, based in Cape Canaveral. Before joining Aviation Week in 2017, Irene spent 25 years as a wire service reporter covering human and robotic spaceflight, commercial space, astronomy, science and technology for Reuters and United Press International.


1 Comment
Jared is NOT a Private Pilot. He is in fact a Single and Multiengine Airline Transport Pilot, holds an expired CFI for Single, Multiengine, and Instrument, along with at least a half dozen turbojet Type Ratings. He a cofounder of Draken International.