SpaceX

Polaris Dawn could perform the first commercial SpaceX spacewalk as soon as March

Polaris Dawn could perform the first commercial SpaceX spacewalk as soon as March

SpaceX's Polaris Dawn crew will be the first all-private mission to perform the first-ever commercial spacewalk. They will test new technologies aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft, including SpaceX's new extravehicular activity (EVA) spacesuits and the Starlink laser-link communication system. The Polaris program is funded by Shift4 Payments founder Jared Isaacman, who led the world's first all-civilian Inspiration4 mission that orbited Earth for three days and inspired spectators to donate to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in September 2021. The Polaris Dawn mission will advance spaceflight technology while continuing to fundraise for the children's hospital.

Polaris Dawn could conduct the first commercial SpaceX spacewalk as soon as March. The crew members are: Commander Isaacman, retired United States Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Scott ‘Kidd’ Poteet, SpaceX Lead Space Operations Engineer Sarah Gillis, and SpaceX Lead Space Operations Engineer Anna Menon. They will lift off aboard Crew Dragon atop a Falcon 9 rocket from historic Launch Complex-39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The brave crew is destined to travel farther than any humans have since NASA's final Apollo lunar missions in 1972 and will beat the record 1,367-kilometer-high orbit achieved by Gemini 11’s mission in 1966. “At approximately 700 kilometers above the Earth, the crew will attempt the first-ever commercial extravehicular activity with SpaceX-designed extravehicular activity spacesuits, upgraded from the current intravehicular suit. Building a base on the Moon and a city on Mars will require thousands of spacesuits; the development of this suit and the execution of the EVA will be important steps toward a scalable design for spacesuits on future long-duration missions,” says Polaris Program representatives.  

The quartet has been training for the historic mission for over six months. They have climbed the highest mountains and scuba-dived through the depths of the sea to prepare for the demanding spaceflight. The crew has also flown fighter jets to get used to the force they will experience when the rocket lifts off. Most recently, the Polaris Program shared that the crew participated in a decompression sickness (DCS) study as part of their training, which took place at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, on December 18 through 20. “The risk of decompression sickness is lowered when the amount of nitrogen is reduced in one’s body. Current extravehicular activity (EVA) decompression models – such as those used on the International Space Station – achieve this during a long-duration 100% oxygen prebreathe exercise in an airlock. The Dragon spacecraft, however, does not have an airlock, requiring the entire vehicle (including crewmembers) to decompress down to vacuum with a limited prebreathe. In anticipation of the mission’s EVA attempt, this study characterized DCS risk for Polaris Dawn and will help SpaceX develop a new decompression model for EVAs from Dragon,” shared Polaris Program representatives in a blog update. The crew trained inside NASA’s 20 Foot Chamber for under two days, in order to simulate the Crew Dragon spacecraft’s expected pressure and oxygen profiles. This served to determine whether the crew would experience DCS symptoms under medical supervision. The crew shared some photographs of their training, linked below.

 

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Featured Image Source: Polaris Program via Twitter

About the Author

Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo

Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo

Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.

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