Launch of the Polaris Dawn mission postponed to 2023

The launch of the Polaris Dawn private expedition on the Crew Dragon spacecraft will take place no earlier than March 2023. This became known after an update on the official website of the mission.

The concept of the Polaris Dawn mission. Source: Polaris

The Polaris Dawn mission is funded by billionaire Jared Isaacman. For him, this will be his second flight into space. In addition to him, the crew will also include former US Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Scott Poteet and SpaceX engineers Sarah Gillis and Anna Menon.

The upcoming flight has three main goals. First, Crew Dragon will have to enter orbit with an apogee of 1400 km. Thus, Polaris Dawn will surpass the record set back in 1966 by the Gemini 11 mission, which reached an altitude of 1,372 km (the Apollo expeditions moved away from Earth for much longer distances, but they did it during flights to the Moon, and not in near-Earth orbit).

The second task will be to conduct scientific research. In total, during the five-day flight, the mission participants plan to perform over 35 scientific experiments. The purpose of many of them will be to study the effect of increased radiation levels on the health of astronauts (the orbit of the Crew Dragon will be so high that the spacecraft will occasionally cross the inner sections of the Earth’s radiation belts). The astronauts also plan to test the possibility of using Starlink satellites for communication.

And finally, during the flight, the first ever private spacewalk will take place. The operation will be performed at an altitude of 500 km, which is comparable to the height of the Hubble telescope’s orbit. The mission participants have already started training, and SpaceX engineers have made a number of changes to the spacecraft’s life support system. Since Crew Dragon does not have a separate airlock to perform the procedure, the crew will have to depressurize the entire spacecraft. Spacesuits created by SpaceX will be used to go into space. 

More recently, December 2022, appeared as the launch date of Polaris Dawn. At the moment, it is unknown what exactly led to the postponement of the mission to next year.

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