The first commercial spacewalk, scheduled for late 2022, has been postponed to March 2023 at the earliest, the Polaris Program website has announced.
The private Polaris Dawn mission is due to take billionaire tech entrepreneur Jared Isaacman and three crewmembers to Earth orbit. Using Elon Musk’s ‘Dragon’ spacecraft capsule, named for the 1960’s folksong ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’, the flight will launch on a Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Centre.
The spacewalk is intended to take place at an altitude of 700 km, almost twice as high as the International Space Station’s average orbit. “With the aim of better understanding the effects of spaceflight and space radiation on human health” according the program website, the mission will also traverse parts of the Van Allen Radiation Belts, two rings of radiation that surround Earth.
The goal of the Polaris Program is to further develop and advance the potential and ability of human spaceflight to get humans back on the Moon and, ultimately, as Elon Musk has promised, reach Mars by the end of the decade.
There are three missions foreseen in the program. The details of the following flights are not yet known, but a Dragon is planned for the second one, still in the early stages of preparation, while the third is expected to be the first crewed mission of Musk’s revolutionary, fully reusable rocket, Starship, designed to take people and cargo to the Moon, Mars and beyond.
Isaacman, who is raising funds for a Memphis children’s hospital, is not just a passenger but is due to lead the mission, giving him the edge on other Earthling billionaires in the space race. He has also suggested that the second mission of the Polaris Program could be used to service NASA’s Hubble telescope, boosting its orbit and generally take maintenance crews to the stargazing device.