We won’t see the first-ever commercial spacewalk this year, after all.
SpaceX is private Polaris Dawn The mission to Earth orbit has been postponed from late 2022 to March 2023 at the earliest Polaris program website (opens in new tab)the organization planning the flight.
Polaris Dawn will take off on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This is the same pad that the September 2021 launch took place on Inspiration4the first purely private manned mission into Earth orbit.
The four-man Inspiration4 was funded and commanded by billionaire tech entrepreneur Jared Isaacman, who will also lead Polaris Dawn. Like Inspiration4, Polaris Dawn will drive a SpaceX dragon Capsule in Earth orbit – but the upcoming mission will shoot a little higher.
Polaris Dawn “will utilize the maximum performance of the Falcon 9 and Dragon, fly higher than any previous Dragon mission and strive to achieve the highest Earth orbit ever flown,” according to Polaris program officials wrote in a mission statement (opens in new tab). “Circles parts of the Van Allen radiation beltsPolaris Dawn will conduct research aimed at better understanding the impact of space travel and space radiation on human health.”
The mission will also contain the first commercial spacewalk, which will be conducted at an altitude of approximately 435 miles (700 kilometers) if all goes according to plan. For perspective, the International Space Station orbits an average of about 250 miles (400 km) above Earth.
Isaacman and his three crew members also want money for St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis, another key Inspiration4 goal.
Funded by Isaacman, the Polaris program aims to improve human spaceflight capabilities and potentially help our species return to and make the leap to the Moon Mars. The program also lists raising funds for charities and institutions such as St. Judes.
The program will have a total of three missions if all goes according to plan. The second mission will also employ a dragon, although little else we know about it; it is apparently still in the early planning stages.
Isaacman raised an intriguing possibility late last month when he determined that Polaris Flight Two could potentially improve NASA’s orbit and potentially serve other purposes Hubble Space Telescope. This mission objective depends on the results of a joint NASA-SpaceX study examining the Feasibility of a Dragon mission to Hubble.
The third Polaris flight will be SpaceX’s first manned mission spaceship Vehicle the company is developing to take people and cargo to the Moon, Mars and beyond. Starship will also serve as NASA’s first manned lander artemis lunar program.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out there (opens in new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaelwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or he Facebook (opens in new tab).