Polaris Program Aims for First SpaceX Starship Flight to Carry Humans

Billionaire Jared Isaacman has a new commercial space mission.

Eric Mack Contributing Editor
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Eric Mack
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The crew of Polaris Dawn pose with a SpaceX Starship prototype. From left: Anna Menon, Scott Poteet, Jared Isaacman, Sarah Gillis.

The crew of Polaris Dawn pose with a SpaceX Starship prototype. From left: Anna Menon, Scott Poteet, Jared Isaacman, Sarah Gillis.

Polaris Program

Despite his recent experience with a leaky toilet in orbit, Jared Isaacman is ready to go back to space for a second time. 

The billionaire who bankrolled last year's historic Inspiration4 mission that sent four civilian astronauts on a nearly three-day trip to space has announced his sophomore spaceflight.

Isaacman and a crew of three others plan to make more history with the first launch of the newly announced Polaris Program as soon as later this year.

"The Polaris Program is an important step in advancing human space exploration," Isaacman said in a statement. "On Polaris Dawn, we endeavor to achieve the highest Earth orbit ever flown in addition to conducting the world's first commercial spacewalk and testing of Starlink laser-based communication."

Dawn will the be the first of up to three human spaceflight missions that make up Polaris, lasting as long as five days. A second flight "will continue to expand the boundaries of future human spaceflight missions, in-space communications, and scientific research." 

Polaris' planned third mission is likely to be its most anticipated -- it would be the first human spaceflight on Starship, the next-generation vehicle from SpaceX that founder Elon Musk plans to use to send NASA astronauts back to the surface of the moon and eventually put footprints on Mars. 

Just like the Inspiration4 mission that Isaacman commanded, Polaris Dawn will utilize a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule to visit orbit. The Crew Dragon used for Inspiration4 suffered from a leaking tube carrying urine from the toilet. It's not clear whether the same Crew Dragon would be used for Dawn, but SpaceX has since upgraded the toilet.

The crew of Dawn consists of Isaacman, retired US Air Force pilot Scott Poteet and two SpaceX operations engineers, Sarah Gillis and Anna Menon. During the mission, the crew will attempt another historic first: a commercial spacewalk using spacesuits designed by SpaceX. They will also be performing a series of experiments involving human health during spaceflight. 

Polaris Dawn is set to launch no earlier than the fourth quarter of 2022.