(Washington) SpaceX and American billionaire Jared Isaacman, who returned from his first trip to space just a few months ago, on Monday announced a partnership for three new missions, the first of which this year will include a spacewalk. , in combination. 🇧🇷
The third mission will also be the “first flight with humans on board” of the new Starship megarocket, currently under development by Elon Musk’s company.
This announcement marks a new milestone for the private space exploration industry as SpaceX looks to pursue ever more ambitious missions.
It is a “mini space program”, boldly argued Mr. Isaacman at a press conference. The aim is to develop SpaceX’s “long-duration spaceflight capabilities,” with the “ultimate goal of facilitating Mars exploration,” the head of finance firm Shift4 said.
The program, called Polaris after the North Star, is funded by SpaceX and Jared Isaacman. But the businessman declined to give specific numbers. The amount is probably in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
The first mission, “Polaris Dawn” (dawn, in English), will have four crew members. Mr. Isaacman, an experienced pilot, will be in command. It will last up to five days and will take off from Florida “in the fourth quarter of this year”, at the very least, aboard a Falcon 9 rocket – which already transports NASA astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).
A spacewalk is planned, unprecedented for the company, “at about 500 kilometers of altitude” and which should serve as a test for the new space suits developed by SpaceX, adapted to these extravehicular exits.
The Dragon capsule hatch will be open and, in the absence of an airlock, the entire crew will be exposed to the vacuum of space. The decision on who leaves will be made during training in the coming months, Isaacman said.
“Highest Earth Orbit”
In September, the billionaire had already chartered the Inspiration4 space mission, the first in the world to send only complete amateurs into space, without a professional astronaut on board. The SpaceX spacecraft had traveled at an altitude of 590 km, already farther than the ISS.
This time, “Polaris Dawn” will fly “higher” than any manned SpaceX mission to date and attempt to achieve “the highest Earth orbit ever achieved,” according to a statement.
Jared Isaacman indicated that the altitude would be on the order of NASA’s Gemini program, whose 11and mission had risen to 1370 km.
However, this distance will still be far from the approximately 380,000 km that separate the Earth from the Moon, achieved by NASA astronauts during the Apollo program.
In addition to Jared Isaacman himself, the ship will carry pilot Scott Poteet, a former US Air Force veteran who has worked for several of the billionaire’s companies.
Two SpaceX employees will also be part of the trip. The first, Sarah Gillis, is responsible for the company’s astronaut training program, and had trained Jared Isaacman himself for Inspiration4.
The second, Anna Menon, worked for NASA for seven years before joining SpaceX. She should beat her husband by going to orbit first, he has just been chosen by the American space agency to become an astronaut.
One of the objectives of the mission is also to collect data on the radiation to which the crew will be exposed.
In the future, the first manned flight of the new Starship rocket will be particularly scrutinized: the Starship was indeed selected by NASA to be the vehicle that will bring astronauts back to the surface of the Moon, at the earliest in 2025.
Elon Musk has promised that Starship will reach space for the first time this year, with no one on board to start with.
But the schedule for this first test remains suspended for now due to a decision by the American aviation authority (FAA) on the environmental consequences of orbital flights from Texas, where SpaceX is located. The decision was delayed from late February to late March, the FAA said on Monday.
Another billionaire, the Japanese Yusaku Maezawa, booked his flight aboard the Starship. This mission, called “DearMoon”, is supposed to go around the Moon. The 2023 date first announced is likely to be passed.