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Lehigh Valley Business Owner Will Be Astronaut in SpaceX Mission

By Colin McEvoy on February 5, 2021

Jared Isaacman, CEO of the Lehigh Valley company Shift4 Payments, has been chosen to lead the Inspiration4 mission for SpaceX. (photo courtesy SpaceX)

Jared Isaacman already had a pretty impressive list of accomplishments to his name.

The Palmer Township native started the company Shift4 Payments in his parents bedroom at age 16. He became a self-made billionaire. He’s an accomplished jet pilot who holds several records and has flown in more than 100 air shows. What could be next?

How about going into space?

Isaacman, 37, has been chosen to be commander of the four-man crew in Inspiration4, the world’s first all-civilian, all-commercial astronaut mission to space. The expedition by Elon Musk’s SpaceX is expected to launch as early as the fourth quarter of this year.

“Inspiration4 is the realization of a lifelong dream and a step towards a future in which anyone can venture out and explore the stars,” Isaacman said. “I appreciate the tremendous responsibility that comes with commanding this mission and I want to use this historic moment to inspire humanity while helping to tackle childhood cancer here on Earth.”

The announcement was made on Feb. 1 from SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif. Isaacman will undergo commercial astronaut training from SpaceX, and the mision will eventually launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The multi-day mission will see Isaacman and his crew orbit Earth every 90 minutes on a customized flight path, all while being carefully monitored at every step by SpaceX mission control, according to the organization.

“Today’s announcement is the first step of a very exciting journey,” Isaacman said on Feb. 1. “In the lead-up to launch, we’ll share new ways to support and follow our mission preparation and execution with a focus on inspiring and helping others.”

Shift4 Payments is an industry-leading payments processing firm to process hotel and restaurant payments. Headquartered in Allentown, the company employs 1,500 people, hundreds of whom are located here in the Lehigh Valley.

The company’s services go beyond payments to include a wide range of commerce-enabling services, powering more than 350 software providers in numerous industries, including hospitality, retail, eCommerce, lodging, gaming, and more.

Shift4 has more than 7,000 sales partners, according to the company, and securely processed more than $200 billion in payments volume for over 200,000 businesses in 2019.

In addition to his business ventures, Isaacman is rated to fly commercial and military aircraft, has flown more than 100 air shows with the Black Diamond Jet Team, and has participated in two Speed-Around-The-World flights in 2008 and 2009 that raised money for the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

He also previously on a mountain climbing expedition in Australia, and co-founded Draken International, the world’s largest private air force, which trains pilots of the U.S. Armed Forces.

A long-time space enthusiast and a visible member of the close-knit aviation community, Isaacman had long been in touch with the SpaceX team and had previously expressed his interest in serving as a pilot if the opportunity arose. He also personally donated $100 million to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the charity being supported by Inspiration4.

“In fulfilling a personal and lifelong dream, I recognize the tremendous responsibility that comes with commanding this mission,” Isaacman said. “While a historic journey awaits us in space, I hope this mission reinforces how far inspiration can take us and the extraordinary achievements it leads to here on Earth.”

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