SpaceX is laying the foundation for the first commercial spacewalk this year after the U.S. private aerospace technology company won’t just have launched the first exclusively manned space flight – it will soon have to host a full private space program.
According to the Washington Post, Shift4 founder and Inspiration4 leader Jared Isaacman has unveiled an initiative of the Polaris program that will include “up to” three SpaceX flights with crew.
The first, Polaris Dawn, is scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2022 and should include the first commercial spacewalk. The effort will ideally end with the first manned flight of Starship.
Polaris Dawn’s team will also target earth’s highest orbit, conduct health research, and test laser-based Starlink communication. Isaacman will return as commander of the mission, while The Inspiration4 mission director and Air Force veteran Scott Poteet will serve as a pilot.
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Two of SpaceX’s top operational engineers will also be on board, including Anna Menon and Sarah Gillis. Menon’s role is symbolic of the shift to private space flight — her husband Anil was chosen to become a NASA astronaut, but he will likely arrive in space before her husband does.
Even so, this represents a further normalization of private spaceflight. While the Polaris Program continues a recent “tradition” of civilian flights led by billionaires, it also promises to commercialize aspects that were still reserved for government astronauts, such as spacewalks and the testing of new spacecraft.