The Polaris Dawn mission crew, from left: Medical officer Anna Menon, pilot Scott Poteet, commander Jared Isaacman, and mission specialist Sarah Gillis.
Polaris Program / John Kraus
Jared Isaacman, the billionaire founder of payments company Shift4 who flew on the first private SpaceX flight to orbit last year, purchased as many as three more flights from Elon Musk’s company.
Called the Polaris Program, the first mission – known as Polaris Dawn – is scheduled to launch a crew of four led by Isaacman in the fourth quarter of this year with the company’s Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft. According to the program’s website, this will be the first of up to three missions, with the third set to be the first crewed spaceflight of SpaceX’s Starship rocket.
“The Polaris Program is an important step in advancing human space exploration while helping to solve problems through the use of innovative technology here on Earth,” Isaacman said in a statement.
Financial terms of Isaacman’s purchase from SpaceX were not disclosed.
Isaacman was among those who were at Musk’s Starship presentation last week at the company’s facility in Texas. SpaceX has already booked a private Starship flight to the moon for Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, and Musk on Thursday alluded that more such spaceflights were in the works.
The Polaris Dawn mission will spend up to five days in orbit and will attempt new firsts for the company – including the first-ever private spacewalk with SpaceX spacesuits, testing of Starlink satellite communications in space and conduct scientific research on human health.
Notably, Polaris Dawn effectively marks the start of SpaceX’s own astronaut corps. Isaacman is the commander of the mission, with his longtime colleague Scott Poteet as the pilot, while two SpaceX employees are flying along as missions specialists: Sarah Gillis and Anna Menon. Gillis and Menon are lead space operations engineers at SpaceX, with the former overseeing the company’s astronaut training program and the latter managing the development of its crew operations.
The first look at the crew in orbit, from left: Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Chris Sembroski, Sian Proctor.
Isaacman led the historic Inspiration4 mission in September, which spent three days in orbit in SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule with a crew of four. The primary goal of Inspiration4 was to raise $ 200 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which is succeeding in doing so by raising over $ 240 million.
Like Inspiration4, the Polaris missions will “raise funds and awareness” for St. Jude. The program is also collaborating with multiple organizations, including the Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH), BioServe Space Technologies at the University of Colorado Boulder, Space Technologies Lab at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, Weill Cornell Medicine, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory , the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and the US Air Force Academy.