SpaceX's private Polaris Dawn mission could launch by March 2023

It is the first in a series of private launches that will culminate in the first crewed Starship spaceflight.
Chris Young
An artist's impression of the Polaris Dawn spacewalk.
An artist's impression of the Polaris Dawn spacewalk.

Source: Polaris Program 

SpaceX's Polaris Dawn mission will include the first-ever commercial spacewalk.

The mission, funded and commanded by billionaire Jared Isaacman, is part of the Polaris Program, a series of launches that will include the first-ever crewed Starship spaceflight.

The first of these, Polaris Dawn, was originally slated for late 2022. As is often the case with rocket launches, several factors have come into play, pushing the mission back to no earlier than March 2023, as per an update to the Polaris Program's website first reported by Space.com.

Polaris Dawn could "reach the highest Earth orbit ever flown"

The Polaris Dawn mission will launch a crew of four aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule sitting atop one of the private space firm's Falcon 9 launch systems. It will travel to orbit from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Mission commander Jared Isaacman also funded and commanded SpaceX's Inspiration4 mission in September 2021, which went down as the first-ever all-private orbital space mission.

Polaris Dawn will purposefully go a lot higher than the Inspiration4 mission. In fact, it aims to go higher than any orbital mission that has come before.

On the Polaris Program's website, the organization explains that Polaris Dawn "will take advantage of Falcon 9 and Dragon's maximum performance, flying higher than any Dragon mission to date and endeavoring to reach the highest Earth orbit ever flown."

"Orbiting through portions of the Van Allen radiation belt, Polaris Dawn will conduct research with the aim of better understanding the effects of spaceflight and space radiation on human health."

The Polaris Dawn mission will aim to carry out the first commercial spacewalk in history. It will be performed at an altitude of approximately 435 miles (700 kilometers), which is higher than the International Space Station's orbital apogee of roughly 250 miles (400 km) from Earth's surface.

Polaris Program aims to aid SpaceX in its ultimate mission

Isaacman founded the Polaris Program to help advance human spaceflight and aid in the mission to get humans to Mars. Part of this will be the Polaris III mission, which is expected to launch aboard a SpaceX Starship rocket. Starship is SpaceX's next-generation fully reusable launch system. The company designed it specifically to lower the cost of spaceflight in a bid to get humans to Mars.

Isaacman also uses his space industry connections to help raise money for St. Jude Children's Hospital in Memphis and carry out other charitable missions. Near the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, he specifically flew out to the country to deliver Starlink terminals that helped in the reallocation of cancer patients who had been forced to flee.

The Polaris Dawn crew — made up of Isaacman, Anna Menon, Scott Pottet, and Sarah Gillis — is comprised of individuals who are not trained astronauts, but are all experienced in aviation and spaceflight operations. They are all currently undergoing intensive training preparations ahead of next year's launch.

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