Private Astronaut Mission Polaris Dawn is Postponed Until Mid-2024
Another postponement has been made to a private astronaut mission that is scheduled to include the first spacewalk from a Crew Dragon spacecraft, at least until the middle of this year.
The billionaire Jared Isaacman-backed Polaris Program, which consists of a series of private astronaut missions, revealed on February 8 that its Polaris Dawn mission would now take place no early than this summer. An April start date had been previously indicated by the program.
“The additional time continues to provide necessary developmental time to ensure both the completion of these mission goals and a safe launch and return of Dragon and the crew,” it posted on social media.
A spacewalk—the first from a Crew Dragon spacecraft—highlights these objectives. This calls for changes to the Crew Dragon, which does not have an airlock, in order to enable its cabin to be depressurized prior to the spacewalk and then repressurized following it. It also calls for the creation of an extravehicular activity (EVA) spacesuit that can be utilized outside the spacecraft.
Isaacman has previously said that part of the reason for the delays was that the work was harder than anticipated. “This week’s @PolarisProgram training was excellent. We spent a lot of time working contingencies when under pressure in the EVA suits in addition to the sims. There’s still a lot to accomplish, but it seems like progress is being made,” he wrote on January 26.
Industry insiders claim that SpaceX greatly overestimated the amount of work required to transform the pressure suit astronauts now wear onboard Crew Dragon into an EVA suit. In their announcement of the Polaris Dawn mission two years ago, SpaceX and the Polaris Program predicted a launch window as early as the fourth quarter of 2022.
SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk, in a presentation to company employees posted online Jan. 12, hinted at the difficulties in spacesuit development. “We’ve got to redesign the suit so that you actually move around in it,” he said. “It’s quite hard to still be mobile in an inflated suit.”
The Polaris Dawn mission is being used by the firm to test the suit that it intends to use on upcoming missions. He declared, “This is going to be a significant milestone.” It’s fantastic to have a high-mobility spacesuit that you can move around in easily and that isn’t too pricey. It’s genuinely a crucial item that must be designed and eventually produced in big quantities.
Although Isaacman characterized the suits as “heavier and bulkier” than the present Dragon pressure suits, neither SpaceX nor the Polaris Program have provided photographs of the outfits. The suits will replace the pressure suits used during launch and reentry and will be worn by all four crew members, including those who stay within Dragon.
In addition to the spacewalk, the mission will test optical connectivity between the Crew Dragon spacecraft and Starlink satellites to enable intersatellite communications. In addition to conducting health research, the five-day trip will also study the radiation environment at heights of up to 1,400 kilometers—higher than any crewed mission since the 1972 Apollo 17 mission to the moon.