First private spacewalk postponed due to unready spacesuits

The Polaris Dawn mission, which will be the first private spacewalk, will take place no earlier than mid-2024. This was announced by its organiser, billionaire Jared Isaacman.

Main objectives of the Polaris Dawn mission

The Polaris Dawn mission was announced back in 2022. At that time, it was expected to launch into space at the end of the same year. The mission has three main objectives. First, the Crew Dragon with four private astronauts will have to enter orbit with an apogee of 1400 km. In doing so, Polaris Dawn will break the record set back in 1966 by the Gemini 11 mission, which reached an altitude of 1372 km (Apollo expeditions moved farther from Earth, but they did so during flights to the Moon, not in Earth orbit).

The concept of the Polaris Dawn mission. Source: Polaris

The second task will be to conduct scientific research. In total, during the five-day flight, the mission participants plan to perform more than 35 scientific experiments. The purpose of many of them will be to study the impact of increased radiation levels on the health of astronauts — the orbit of the Crew Dragon will be so high that the ship will occasionally cross the inner parts of the Earth’s radiation belts. The astronauts also plan to test the possibility of using the Starlink system to communicate with the Earth. Usually, ground stations and TDRS satellites are used for this purpose.

Finally, the first-ever private spacewalk will take place during the flight. The operation will be carried out at an altitude of 500 km, which is comparable to the orbit altitude of the Hubble telescope. The spacewalkers will use spacesuits created by SpaceX. The operation is expected to last about two hours.

New launch date for Polaris Dawn

Since its announcement, the Polaris Dawn mission has already been postponed several times due to various technical difficulties. One of them was due to the fact that the Crew Dragon spacecraft does not have a separate airlock, so the spacewalk will be carried out by fully depressurising the entire ship.
The crew of the Polaris Dawn mission. Source: Polaris Programme / John Kraus.

Until recently, it was expected that the mission would go into space this spring. But according to Jared Isaacman, it was decided to postpone the launch. The current postponement is due to the unreadiness of the spacesuits. The mission will involve a modification of the current SpaceX suits, which will allow astronauts to enter space. It is reported that their creation proved to be a more difficult task than engineers expected. As a result, the launch of Polaris Dawn has been postponed until at least mid-2024.

Now the Polaris Dawn crew is actively preparing for the upcoming flight and rehearsing for spacewalks in new spacesuits. At the same time, neither Jared Isaacson nor SpaceX has published their photos yet.

Based on materials from