When you’re a billionaire, a quick trip down Long Island to spend a day at the beach just isn’t fun anymore. Instead, you have to look much further afield when planning a weekend away. I guess that explains why billionaire Jared Isaacman has purchased three more flights into the cosmos with SpaceX.
Isaacman, the 39-year-old founder of online payment firm Shift4, first left the Earth’s atmosphere in September 2021 on board one of Elon Musk’s SpaceX Crew Dragon capsules. He has now reached an agreement with the firm to run two further missions with the Crew Dragon ships and a third with its new Starship craft.
Dubbed the Polaris missions, the first one is scheduled for the fourth quarter of this year and will include the first commercial spacewalk ever conducted.
That’s right, the Crew Dragon capsule will head into space, where it will then open its hatch and let one of the four people onboard venture out into the vacuum.
There’s no word on whether it will be Isaacman or one of the other three crew members who heads out the hatch. But I don’t think you get to be a billionaire by paying for other people’s spacewalks.
There are a few pretty key components that need to be finalized before this mission can be realized, however.
First, SpaceX doesn’t yet have a suit that can be worn outside its crafts, as it’s not something they’ve ever needed to provide before. The Crew Dragon capsules are mostly used to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station, with little time to stop and enjoy the view en route.
As such, the firm is working to develop a new suit that can keep its wearer alive while they float about in the total nothingness of space.
What’s more, as the capsule was never designed for spacewalks, the entire crew will be subjected to the vacuum of space. That’s because there is no air lock on the SpaceX ship, so the entire cabin will be depressurized before Isaacman or one of the other passengers steps outside.
As well as a floating around the cosmos, the five-day mission will also offer a chance to test out fellow Musk-backed company Starlink’s laser communication systems.
And the flight will also observe how the crew handles deep space environment. That’s because the plan is to travel through the Van Allen Belts, a zone of radiated particles trapped in Earth’s magnetic field. This region above the Earth’s atmosphere extends into deep space.
In a release, Space X claimed the mission would involve “flying higher than any Dragon mission to date and endeavoring to reach the highest Earth orbit ever flown.”
On the first flight, Isaacman will be joined by Scott “Kidd” Poteet, a veteran member of Jared’s team, and two Space X employees, Sarah Gillis and Anna Menon.
The first Polaris mission scheduled for November or December this year, although given Musk’s track record of developing new tech on time, this remains to be seen.