Science

SpaceX’s Polaris Dawn Private Mission Now Targets March 2023

After all, we won’t see the first commercial spacewalk this year.

SpaceX’s Polaris Dawn private mission to Earth orbit has been pushed back from late 2022 to no earlier than March 2023, according to the Polaris program website. (will open in a new tab)organization planning the flight.

Polaris Dawn lifts off on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This is the same site that hosted the September 2021 launch of Inspiration4, the first private crewed mission to Earth orbit.

Related: SpaceX Polaris Dawn private space team talks about their ambitious mission (exclusive)

The four-member Inspiration4 was funded and run by billionaire tech entrepreneur Jared Isaacman, who will also lead Polaris Dawn. Like Inspiration4, Polaris Dawn will fly the SpaceX Dragon capsule in Earth orbit, but the upcoming mission will be a little higher.

Polaris Dawn “takes advantage of the Falcon 9 and Dragon’s peak performance by flying higher than any Dragon mission to date and will attempt to reach the highest Earth orbit ever flown,” the Polaris program wrote in the mission description. (will open in a new tab). “Orbiting through parts of the Van Allen Radiation Belt, Polaris Dawn will conduct research to better understand the impact of space flight and space radiation on human health.”

The mission also includes the first commercial spacewalk, which will be performed at an altitude of about 435 miles (700 kilometers) if all goes according to plan. For perspective: The International Space Station orbits at an average altitude of about 250 miles (400 km) above the Earth.

Isaacman and three of his teammates are also looking to raise money for Memphis’ Saint Jude Children’s Hospital, which is also a key goal of Inspiration4.

The Polaris Dawn mission, which will launch no earlier than March 2023, will be the first ever commercial spacewalk. (Image courtesy of Polaris software)

The Polaris program, which is funded by Isaacman, aims to expand manned spaceflight, potentially helping our species return to the Moon and make the jump to Mars. The program also lists as a priority fundraising for worthy causes and institutions such as St. Jude’s.

There will be three missions in total if everything goes according to plan. The second mission will also involve the Dragon, though we don’t know much about him; this is apparently still in the early stages of planning.

Late last month, Isaacman raised one intriguing possibility, noting that a second Polaris flight could potentially boost orbit and possibly also service NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. This mission goal depends on the results of a joint study between NASA and SpaceX that is exploring the possibility of launching a Dragon mission to Hubble.

The third flight of Polaris will be the first manned mission of the giant SpaceX Starship, which the company is developing to carry people and cargo to the Moon, Mars and beyond. Starship will also be the first crewed lander for NASA’s Artemis lunar program.

Mike Wall is the author of Out There (will open in a new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrations by Carl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (will open in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (will open in a new tab) or on facebook (will open in a new tab).

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