SpaceX's Polaris Dawn crew will be the first all-private mission to conduct 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 to orbit that inspired the world to donate St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in September last year. The Polaris Dawn mission will advance spaceflight tech while continuing to raise awareness for the children's hospital.
The Polaris Dawn crewmembers 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. Their mission is scheduled to launch during the fourth quarter of 2022. Polaris Dawn will lift off aboard Crew Dragon atop a Falcon 9 rocket from historic Launch Complex-39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. They are 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. "Targeting an apogee of ~1,400 kilometers, this Dragon mission will take advantage of Falcon 9 and Dragon’s maximum performance, endeavoring to fly higher than any Dragon mission to date [...]," said Polaris Program representatives.
Crew Dragon will be launched into an elliptical orbit with an apogee of ~1,200 kilometers and perigee of 190 kilometers (1,200 x 190 km). SpaceX Mission Control and the crew will ensure the vehicle is in good conditions then Dragon’s Draco engines will be ignited to raise into the designated altitude of around 1,400 kilometers. Dragon will remain in the highest altitude for multiple orbits then it will lower into an altitude of ~700 - 190 kilometers for the rest of the mission, which is expected to last at least a week. For perspective, the International Space Station (ISS) operates at an average altitude of approximately 400 kilometers.
The Polaris Dawn crew has been training for three months. First they underwent basic medical and scuba training that is needed practice how to space walk. Swimming underwater mimics what astronauts will feel when they 'float' in microgravity environment. The crew first trained in a pool then scuba dived at Catalina Beach in Los Angeles. Scuba diving also helps astronauts physiologically adapt to changes in pressure.
All Images Source: Polaris Program via Twitter
The crew also climbed three active volcanoes for their training, meant to "push their physical and mental endurance to the limit." They traveled to Ecuador to climb the Cotopaxi volcano in the Andes Mountains. Cotopaxi is the second-highest mountain peak in Ecuador with an altitude of 5,897 meters (19,347 ft). The Polaris Program shared photos and videos of the crew's expedition on the beautiful snowy mountain top, pictured below. "This expedition required the crew to not only acclimate to different altitudes throughout the climbs but rely upon basic technical mountaineering and glacier-crossing skills," said program representatives.
In four nights @PolarisProgram climbed three 🗻🌋 & completed all training objectives. We are one step closer to the next challenge🚀. I am fortunate to be on this journey w/ a talented crew, great friends & the big @SpaceX & Polaris team that support: @RMIExpeditions @EViesturs pic.twitter.com/fxCkRj7LeW— Jared Isaacman (@rookisaacman) June 2, 2022
From 19,347 feet — the incredible view at the summit of the Cotopaxi volcano in Ecuador with members of the Polaris Dawn team, @RMIExpeditions and @EdViesturs, and local Ecuadorian guides pic.twitter.com/76USpiyWsl— Polaris (@PolarisProgram) June 2, 2022
"There are so many lessons to be learned from mountaineering! This week we climbed Illiniza Norte and Cotopaxi in Ecuador, which was an awesome opportunity to exercise teamwork in an uncomfortable environment, and to challenge ourselves both physically and mentally," said Gillis. "We definitely grew as a crew this week, not only reaching personal altitude records, but learning how we each respond to stress, how we acclimate to low-pressure environments, and how to support each other to achieve our objectives. I am so inspired by this crew!" she captioned a set of photographs via Twitter (linked below).
We definitely grew as a crew this week, not only reaching personal altitude records, but learning how we each respond to stress, how we acclimate to low-pressure environments, and how to support each other to achieve our objectives. I am so inspired by this crew! pic.twitter.com/3rgDRDkUoL— Sarah Gillis (@Gillis_SarahE) June 4, 2022
Featured Image Source: Polaris Dawn via Flickr / SpaceX