SpaceX to launch three additional private missions
SpaceX is planning to launch at least three private missions in the coming years, culminating in the first crewed flight of the company's Starship next-generation rocket.
Why it matters: These privately-funded missions — collectively known as the Polaris program — are further evidence that private companies are now occupying a domain once reserved for the wealthiest nations.
What's happening: The first mission, Polaris Dawn, is expected to launch in the fourth quarter of this year and will be commanded by Jared Isaacman — the billionaire leader of last year's Inspiration4 mission that became SpaceX's first private, crewed mission to orbit.
- Polaris Dawn will make use of SpaceX's Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket, the same system used for Inspiration4.
- Isaacman said during a press call Monday that the missions are funded with contributions from both him and SpaceX, though the exact financial details were not disclosed.
The big picture: "Dragon and the Polaris Dawn crew will spend up to five days in orbit, flying higher than any Dragon mission to-date and endeavoring to reach the highest Earth orbit ever flown," according to a mission description. The crew will also conduct a spacewalk and perform experiments.
- Isaacman will be joined on the mission by pilot Scott Poteet and two mission specialists from SpaceX: Sarah Gillis, an astronaut trainer who helped get Isaacman ready for Inspiration4, and Anna Menon, who will serve as the medical officer.
- Gillis and Menon said they were specifically asked to join the mission by Isaacman.
- Polaris Dawn's objectives will include in-space tests of Starlink satellite communications, research on human health and a spacewalk with spacesuits developed by SpaceX.
What's next: The next Polaris mission will also fly using the Dragon capsule, with the third mission in the series making use of Starship.
- Timing for those two missions hasn't yet been made public.
- Isaacman, who helped St. Jude Children's Research Hospital raise over $240 million through Inspiration4, said Polaris program missions will continue to help raise funds and awareness for the hospital.
Go deeper: Listen to the Axios podcast How it Happened: The Next Astronauts for an in-depth look at the Inspiration4 mission.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with new details throughout.