Polaris Dawn mission crew (left to right): Medical Officer Anna Menon, Pilot Scott Potit, Commander Jared Isaakman, and Mission Specialist Sarah Gillis.
Polaris program / John Kraus
Jared Isaacman, the billionaire founder of payments company Shift4 who made SpaceX’s first private flight into orbit last year, has purchased three more flights from Elon Musk’s company.
The first mission in the so-called Polaris program is to launch a crew of four led by Isaacman in the fourth quarter, using the company’s Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft. According to the program’s website, the Polaris Dawn pre-flight will be the first of three missions, with the last being the first manned spaceflight of the SpaceX Starship rocket.
“The Polaris program is an important step in advancing manned space exploration, helping to solve problems through the use of innovative technologies here on Earth,” Isaacman said in a statement.
The financial terms of the billionaire’s purchase from SpaceX were not disclosed.
Isaacman was among those at Musk’s launch of Starship last week at the company’s Texas facility. SpaceX has booked a private spacecraft flight to the moon for Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, and Musk mentioned on Thursday that other such spaceflights were in the works, but gave no specific details.
The Polaris Dawn mission will spend up to five days in orbit and aims to achieve goals such as the first spacewalk by a private company in SpaceX suits, testing Starlink satellite communications in space, and conducting scientific research in the field of human health.
Notably, Polaris Dawn marks the start of SpaceX’s own astronaut corps. Isaacman, the mission commander, will be joined by his longtime colleague Scott Potit as pilot. Two SpaceX employees, Sarah Gillis and Anna Menon, the company’s lead space operations engineers, round out the crew. Gillis oversees the astronaut training program, while Menon manages the development of crew operations.
First look at the crew in orbit, from left to right: Jared Isaakman, Hayley Arceno, Chris Sembrosky, Sian Proctor.
Isaacman led the historic Inspiration4 mission in September, which spent three days in orbit in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule with a crew of four. Inspiration4’s main goal was to raise $200 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital; he surpassed that goal and donated over $240 million to charity. Like Inspiration4, the Polaris missions will “raise funds and raise awareness” for St. Jude.
The program also collaborates with several organizations, including the Institute for Translational Research in Space Health (TRISH), BioServe Space Technologies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Space Technology Laboratory at Embry-Riddle Aviation University, Weill Cornell Medicine, Johns Hopkins University of Applied Physics. Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and United States Air Force Academy.