Isaacman, who gained international attention when he bought the first SpaceX cruise called Inspiration 4, said the first Dragon mission would be followed by the second Dragon mission shortly thereafter. These two missions will pave the way for the first-ever manned mission on SpaceX’s upcoming Starship rocket, which Elon Musk hopes will one day take people to Mars. Isaacman did not share many details about these plans, except that during this series of missions, he plans to travel to “deep space” – which is usually defined as regions of outer space located at or beyond the moon.
“We’re going to go further into space than humans have gone since we last walked on the moon,” he said on the Today programme.
It’s not clear if all of this will go according to plan, nor has SpaceX said if it will need to complete additional testing before Isaacman can make his journey into deep space. SpaceX also did not address whether there were any updates the Crew Dragon would need to safely complete the mission. So far, the spacecraft has only carried astronauts on flights to low Earth orbit, or the area of space immediately surrounding Earth. Mission Inspiration 4 marks the highest flight of the Crew Dragon to date, at an altitude of nearly 360 miles, and Monday’s announcement indicated that the Polaris missions will travel even further.
The entire Inspiration 4 mission has been billed as a fundraising drive from St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, and has generated a total of $243 million for the organization. Isaacman donated about $100 million, Musk gave another $50 million and the rest was raised through public donations. Polaris missions are also expected to support the same cause.
On the first Polaris mission, Isaacman will be joined by veteran Air Force fighter pilot Scott Poteet and two SpaceX operations engineers – Sarah Gillies and Anna Menon, who will serve as the onboard medical officer. Isaacman will be the only crew member with previous spaceflight experience.
Poteet is a former Vice President of Shift 4. They are also frequent airline partners.
Gillis and Menon may be the first SpaceX employees to travel to space.
Details about the spacewalk the Polaris crew plans to perform on the first flight are light, but a press release states that they will use a “SpaceX-designed Extravehicular Spacesuit (EVA), which has been upgraded from the current in-vehicle (IVA) suit.” The IVA suit refers to the black and white compressed spacesuits worn by NASA astronauts and the Inspiration 4 crew aboard the Dragon during launch and return.
Also on Polaris’ first mission, the crew will test the use of Starlink – SpaceX’s satellite internet business – for communications in space. So far, Starlink has only been used to send internet connectivity to customers on the ground, but Polaris’ press release notes that the system could be used to support communications during orbital flights.
The flight schedule of the Isaacman spacecraft is not entirely clear. During a presentation about the Starship in Texas last week, Musk said that while he hopes the vehicle — which has so far conducted short, sub-orbital “jump tests” — will conduct its first orbital flight test this year, without a crew. However, that may depend on whether federal regulators give SpaceX approval to launch the Starship from southern Texas, where the company has already built an orbital launch pad and the vast majority of the Starship’s resources are located.
It could mean that Isaacman jumps to the first billionaire who bought the Starship mission – Japanese fashion mogul Yusaku Maezawa. Maezawa has paid SpaceX an undisclosed amount of money to secure a seat for himself and a group of artists on the spacecraft’s flight around the moon, hoping to take off as soon as 2023. Maezawa is still in the process of deciding who to take with him.
Musk also said during the presentation that he hoped the Starship would cost less than $10 million per flight within a few years, which, if possible, would be much cheaper than any other rocket on the market.
The spacecraft is expected to be far more powerful than any rocket ever built by mankind. Musk said he would boast about the poor thrust of the Saturn 5 rockets that drove moon landings in the past century.
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