Billionaire plans three more flights with SpaceX, culminating in the Starship mission – Spaceflight Now

Anna Menon, Scott Potit, Jared Isaacman and Sarah Gilles pose with prototype starships in South Texas. The four will fly into orbit as part of the Polaris Dawn mission. Author: Polaris Program / John Kraus

Jared Isaacman, a billionaire businessman who last year funded the first manned space mission with all private citizens, announced on Monday plans for up to three more SpaceX flights, a privately funded program that will include the first commercial spacewalk and end up a trip on a giant starship rocket ship.

The launch of the first of the missions is scheduled for November or December this year on a Falcon 9 rocket and a Crew Dragon capsule. This flight, called Polaris Dawn, will attempt to reach the highest orbit of the Earth that humans have ever flown, and the farthest from Earth since Apollo’s last mission in 1972.

“We’re going to go into space farther than humans have gone since we last walked on the moon,” Isaacman told NBC News, who presented the Polaris mission at the Today Show on Monday morning.

Two more missions are part of the Polaris program: one also using the Crew Dragon spacecraft, and the second – the first human flight on a new generation SpaceX spacecraft Starship.

The program aims to demonstrate new technologies and capabilities in deep space and further study the Moon, Mars and more.

“The Polaris program is an important step in advancing human space exploration, while helping to solve problems through the use of innovative technologies here on Earth,” Isaacman said in a press release. “At Polaris Dawn, we are striving to reach the highest orbit around the Earth, ever flying, in addition to conducting the world’s first commercial spacewalk and testing Starlink laser communications.”

SpaceX regularly launches satellites for its Starlink Internet network to provide global broadband. It may also find future applications for communication between spacecraft. SpaceX’s current generation of Starlink satellites has laser-to-satellite communications, allowing them to transmit large amounts of data without passing through antennas on the ground.

Illustration by artist: A starship that separates from a superheavy booster. Credit: SpaceX

Isaacman said the mission of the Polaris missions would not only support space exploration. The program will also support St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital and inspire children with cancer.

St. Jude received $ 243 million in fundraising as part of Isaacman’s Inspiration4 mission last September when he and three civilian friends spent three days in Earth orbit on the Crew Dragon spacecraft. This mission, which was also launched on the Falcon 9 rocket, was the first purely commercial human space flight into Earth orbit without the involvement of a government agency.

Like Inspiration 4, the Polaris Dawn mission launches from Landing 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The crew, commanded by Isaacman, will spend up to five days in orbit, flying over parts of Van Allen’s radiation belts.

Isaacman will be joined in the Polaris Dawn mission by Scott “Kid” Potit, a veteran fighter pilot and retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel who also served as director of the Inspiration4 mission. Two SpaceX employees, Sarah Gillis and Anna Menon, will also fly into Polaris Dawn orbit.

Gillis oversees the SpaceX astronaut training program, and Menon is a veteran mission director and crew communicator at the SpaceX Flight Control Center. Menon’s husband, Anil, was chosen by NASA as a candidate for astronaut in December.

The 39-year-old Isaacman founded Shift4 Payments, an app for online payments, and has a net worth of $ 1.7 billion, according to Forbes.

Representatives of the program Isaacman and Polaris did not say how high the Polaris Dawn mission will fly, but the program’s website says that the mission “will take advantage of the maximum performance of Falcon 9 and Dragon.”

Artist Concept: A member of the crew who goes into outer space outside the Crew Dragon spacecraft. Credit: SpaceX / Polaris Program

NASA’s Gemini 11 mission since 1966 is an altitude record for an astronaut’s flight in Earth orbit. According to NASA, the Gemini 11 with crew commander Pete Conrad and pilot Dick Gordon reached an altitude of 853 miles (1,372 kilometers).

Polaris Dawn will try to take off higher.

Two crew members plan to go outside the Crew Dragon spacecraft to go into outer space. They will be dressed in a SpaceX-designed spacesuit, an upgraded unit based on the existing SpaceX spacesuit used by astronauts traveling in a spaceship.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft does not have an airlock, so to go into space you will need to depressurize the entire capsule in space. Crew members will emerge from the hatch and remain tied to the spacecraft at an altitude of about 300 miles or 500 kilometers, according to the Polaris program website.

The mission will collect data on the effects of space radiation on human health, promote research into decompression sickness, and collect data on the effects of spaceflight on the human eye, health risks during long spaceflights.

SpaceX and the Polaris team are collaborating with several research institutions in scientific experiments, including the Institute for Translational Space Health Research, BioServe Space Technologies at the University of Colorado Boulder, the Space Technology Laboratory, Aeronavigena and the University of Aeronautica. Hopkins University Laboratory of Applied Physics, Northwest Pacific National Laboratory, and U.S. Air Force Academy.

Details of the second and third Polaris missions were not released Monday, except for plans that the third flight will be the first mission with a crew aboard Starship SpaceX. The second mission “will continue to expand the boundaries of future human spaceflight, space communications and research,” officials said on the Polaris website.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavor is sliding to dock on the International Space Station on April 24, 2021. Author: NASA

Isaacman did not discuss how much he pays for the Polaris mission in a Today Show interview. It is estimated that he paid somewhere less than $ 200 million for the four-seat Inspiration4 mission.

The next-generation Starship rocket from SpaceX, taller and more powerful than any rocket ever built, is being developed for future expeditions to Mars.

Crew Dragon, Isaacman’s trip for the first two Polaris, was designed under a contract with NASA to transport four-person crews to and from the International Space Station, requiring the capsule to re-enter the atmosphere at about 17,000 miles per hour. The dragon will return at a faster speed from the Polaris Dawn mission, which will exceed the height of the space station by 250 miles.

Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese fashion entrepreneur, has already booked a flight on a ship around the moon. He plans to take on a journey of a team of artists and other individuals on a mission called DearMoon. Isaacman’s starship mission will be the first.

The privately funded Polaris mission will start at a time when NASA plans to send astronauts back to the moon using a space launch system and an Orion spacecraft designed and owned by the U.S. government. Artemis’ NASA lunar program focuses on landing astronauts at the moon’s south pole at the end of this decade.

The first SLS test launch is scheduled to send an Orion crew capsule around the moon into an unmanned test flight as early as this spring. The first SLS and Orion flight with a crew, known as Artemis 2, is scheduled to launch only in 2024, when a team of four astronauts will cross the moon and back to Earth.

Future Artemis missions will land astronauts on the moon’s surface. NASA’s first astronaut landing on the moon is planned using the Starship option after the agency selected SpaceX for a contract for a $ 2.9 billion lunar spacecraft last year. Billionaire plans three more flights with SpaceX, culminating in the Starship mission – Spaceflight Now

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