The Dragon capsule containing the four citizen astronauts was launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The launch is the latest giant leap in a new era of commercial space travel.
One of the mission members, billionaire entrepreneur Jared Isaacman, paid SpaceX an undisclosed fee for the chance to fly with three others.
During its three-day journey, the capsule will orbit Earth once every 90 minutes at a speed of over 17,000 mph and at an altitude of 360 miles – even higher than the International Space Station and the Hubble Space Telescope.
Isaacman designed the mission, named Inspiration4, to educate and support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a major pediatric cancer center in Memphis, Tennessee. He personally pledged $ 100million (£ 72million).
One of his teammates, Hayley Arceneaux, was diagnosed with bone cancer at the age of 10. Now 29 years old and a medical assistant at this cancer hospital, she is the youngest American to ever visit space and the first with a prosthesis.
At one point, a plush golden retriever mascot, representing the assistance dogs used in St Jude, could be seen floating around the capsule in the weightlessness of space.
Although the craft is controlled remotely from the ground, it has a designated pilot. Former NASA astronaut candidate Sian Proctor is proud of her role on board.
“There have been three black female astronauts who have been to space and knowing that I will be the fourth means that I have this opportunity to not only fulfill my dream, but also to inspire and inspire the next generation. women and girls of color, ”she said.
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SpaceX founder Elon Musk is not on board, but the mission is seen as the next step in realizing his ambition to reach new targets in space.
“If we’re going to the moon again and going to Mars and beyond, we need to step out of our comfort zone a bit and take the next step in that direction,” Isaacman said.
This summer, billionaire space tourism rivals Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos have reached the edge of space in vehicles they’ve spent millions building.
But experts say this orbital mission, with SpaceX already the leader in commercial space travel, is of greater significance.
Retired NASA astronaut Ron Garan Jr, who flew missions to the International Space Station aboard the Space Shuttle, told Sky News: “There are no passengers on this mission, they’re not there for minutes, they’re there for days, they have actual mission goals they’re trying to achieve, so it’s an order of magnitude harder and riskier.
“But it is the dawn of a new era of space travel. “
And that, according to planetologist Tanya Harrison, is good news for anyone who wants to go to space. “It’s a big step to show that it’s not just billionaires and their employees who go into space, but ordinary people and that they are going further than we have been doing in decades. “
The crew spent five months training for the mission. If all goes as planned, the capsule should land in the Atlantic in three days.