The crew for the first mission in the privately funded Polaris program is taking new heights to prepare for its record-breaking SpaceX flight later this year.
An assignment profile, launch plan estimate and crew update were recently shared on the Polaris website, a duplication of work between SpaceX and billionaire tech entrepreneur Jared Isaacman. Isaacman funded and commanded SpaceX’s first all-civilian crew mission, Inspiration4which raised over $ 240 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in September 2021. Isaacman announced the Polaris program a few months later.
Polaris aims to continue raising money for St. Jude, as well as stretching the boundaries of human spaceflight through three separate launches, all funded by Isaacman. In his first assignment, Polaris Dawn, Isaacman, the master, will fly a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft with Sarah Gillis, Anna Menon and Scott Poteet. (Both Gillis and Menon work on SpaceX.) Polaris’ second launch will also use a kite, but the third is intended to be the first crew mission for SpaceX’s next generation. Spaceship spaceship.
The Polaris program’s unveiling announcement in February this year said the Polaris Dawn mission would include the first commercial spacewalk and soar to an orbital height higher than any human has reached since the finale. Apollo mission 1972 – much higher than any crew of Dragon launches has achieved so far. More details have now been released about the Polaris Dawn mission and how crew members are training for it.
Polaris Dawn is scheduled to be launched in the fourth quarter of this year at the earliest. The Dragon capsule carrying Isaacman and his three crewmates will take off on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
By propelling the rocket to the edge of its capacity, the Falcon 9 will fly the spacecraft to an initial elliptical orbit of 745 miles times 118 miles (1,200 times 190 kilometers). The Dragon will then raise its apogee (highest point above the earth) to 870 miles (1,400 km) with its Draco propellers. The spacecraft will remain in the elliptical orbit for a period and then lower its apogee to 700 km. For the context International Space Station tracks at an average altitude of about 250 miles (400 km).
Because Polaris Dawn will contain the first space walk, or extravehicular activity (EVA), by a private astronaut, SpaceX has had to develop its own commercial EVA suites. A Dragon EVA requires that the spacecraft’s main cabin be pressure-relieved in the same way as NASA Gemini capsules were in the early days of human spaceflight. This means that everyone on board will wear suits that are designed to be exposed to the vacuum of the space.
The latest Polaris software update (opens in new tab)published on June 9, says that teams “on several fronts” have been working on designing and testing SpaceX’s new EVA suits, while the specific research and experiments to be included in the Polaris Dawn mission are continuously reviewed and selected.
Over the past three months, teams at SpaceX and Polaris have also helped crew members prepare for the mission. For example, the group underwent indoor diving training in California to train the types of non-verbal communication and crew support techniques required during EVAs. Once the crew was comfortable in the pool, the crew was able to dive offshore from California’s Catalina Island to experience various physiological reactions associated with pressure changes.
Recently, the team conducted extensive high-altitude hikes in Ecuador, including a climb up the country’s second highest peak, Cotopaxi. Cotopaxi is 19,347 feet (5,897 meters) high, and to reach its peak, the Polaris Dawn crew required crossing glaciers and getting used to drastic elevation changes.
The update on June 9 says that the crew will undergo simulations with the spacecraft Dragon in the coming months and will also participate in some spin-off exercises in vomit comet style, as well as work on recognizing and dealing with signs of hypoxia.
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