Announced in February, Jared Issacman’s Polaris Program crew has been training for a flight on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft this year. At EAA’s AirVenture airshow this weekend, Issacman announced that the launch date for Polaris Dawn could be as soon as the end of this year.
Issacman, who first flew to space on the Inspiration4 mission, has funded another venture called Polaris – designed to push SpaceX and ready the company for further exploration of the Moon and eventually Mars.
The program’s first mission, Polaris Dawn, will fly higher than any other crewed spaceflight mission, excluding those that traveled to the Moon. The crew consists of Issacman, former Thunderbird pilot Scott Poteet, and two SpaceX employees: Sarah Gillis and Anna Menon.
While at EAA’s Oshkosh air show, Issacman said that they are “looking at the end of the year right now so, so likely December,” for a launch date of Polaris Dawn. This would line up to be SpaceX’s ninth crewed launch of its Dragon spacecraft and fourth for 2022, breaking 2021’s tally of three.
The Polaris Dawn mission has three main objectives. The first we mentioned earlier is to reach an apogee (high point in its orbit) of 1,400 km – beating the records of NASA’s Gemini missions. The second will be to test communications between Dragon and SpaceX’s Starlink network of satellites. This would remove the reliance on ground stations or NASA’s TDRS (Tracking and Data Relay Satellite) network for communications with Dragons.
The third and most exciting challenge is to perform the first spacewalk by a private company. Using a SpaceX designed suit, a crew member of Polaris Dawn will exit SpaceX’s Dragon and step into the vacuum of space. This would be a major step forward for SpaceX to complete both the spacewalk and the development of an EVA capable suit.
SpaceX’s mission is to make humans multi-planetary, and EVAs will be a big part of making that happen. Although the dreams of Mars colonies will never happen until SpaceX’s Starship rocket finishes development.
Starship also has a role to play in Issacman’s Polaris Program as the group intends to carry out the first crewed mission on SpaceX’s next-generation rocket. All of this is still with the same plan from Inspiration4, to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Who knows, maybe they will choose someone that donates to the hospital for a trip on Starship around the Moon.
Featured Image: Polaris Program / John Kraus