Isaacman’s next private mission to space now scheduled for March ’23

Jared Isaacman’s next private mission on a Dragon capsule, dubbed Polaris Dawn, has now been scheduled for March ’23, during which the first spacewalk by a private citizen will occur.

The mission is planned to last five days, will have a crew of four led by Isaacman, and will also attempt the highest Earth orbit flown by any manned mission. From the mission’s webpage:

At approximately 700 kilometers above the Earth (434 miles), the crew will attempt the first-ever commercial extravehicular activity (EVA) with SpaceX-designed extravehicular activity (EVA) spacesuits, upgraded from the current intravehicular (IVA) suit.

It is not clear if one or all four of the crew members will participate in that spacewalk. At a minimum, all four must be in suits that can work during a spacewalk, since their Dragon capsule does not have an airlock.

The mission will also be used as to raise funds for St. Jude Children’s Hospital, as was done during Isaacman’s first flight, Inspiration4, in the fall of 2021.

SpaceX and Jared Isaacman announce another private Dragon flight

Capitalism in space: SpaceX and Jared Isaacman, the man who organized and commanded the Inspiration4 private commercial manned Dragon flight last fall, today announced a second private commercial Dragon flight, scheduled for this coming fall.

SpaceX plans to launch a new private astronaut mission, Polaris Dawn, from Florida as early as Nov. 1 and will attempt to conduct the first private spacewalk in history, the company announced Monday.

Businessman Jared Isaacman, founder and CEO of the payments company Shift4, will command the mission, having previously he led the first all-private orbital mission in September known as Inspiration4. Isaacman is an experienced jet pilot.

The crew will also include two SpaceX engineers, Sarah Gillis and Anna Menon, as mission specialists and Isaacman’s business associate, Scott “Kidd” Poteet, as pilot.

The flight will attempt to achieve a higher orbit than even the highest flights during the U.S. space program’s Gemini missions that flew 853 miles above the Earth with astronauts Pete Conrad and Richard Gordon.

Isaacman has also tied this flight to more fundraising for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, suggesting that he was very happy with the charity received in connection with his Inspiration4 spaceflight. If this new flight comes off as planned, Isaacman will follow it up with two more SpaceX manned flights.

For the spacewalk, SpaceX will have to complete the development of its own EVA spacesuit, and have four suits available for the crew since Dragon capsules do not have an airlock.

SpaceX targeting 6 commercial manned flights per year

Capitalism in space: With the successfully completion of its first manned orbital private space, SpaceX officials announced yesterday that they are expecting to fly about six such commercial manned flights per year.

Benji Reed, SpaceX’s senior director for its human spaceflight program projected as many as a half a dozen flights a year. “There’s nothing really that limits our capability to launch,” he said. “It’s about having rockets and Dragons ready to go and having everything in the manifest align with our other launches.”

…“The reality is the Dragon manifest is getting busier by the moment,” Reed said, noting the planned flight in early 2022 of four passengers for customer Axiom Space that will actually fly to and stay on the ISS for a few days. “It just goes on from there. We have a number of NASA missions that we’ll do, and we also have a growing backlog of commercial astronaut missions that we’re looking forward to perform.” [emphasis mine]

The highlighted words are most intriguing, suggesting that SpaceX might have an already signed line-up of customers ready to pay the ticket price to fly on a Dragon capsule.

Meanwhile, Elon Musk announced late yesterday that he has decided to donate $50 million of his own money to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, in celebration of the completion of the Inspiration4 flight.

“This brings tears to my eyes,” wrote Inspiration4 medical officer Hayley Arceneaux, a St. Jude physicians assistant and survivor of childhood bone cancer, of Musk’s donation. “Thank you Elon Musk for this generous donation toward our $200 million dollar fundraising goal for St. Jude!!!”

Isaacman also thanked Musk and reminded the public that the fundraiser is still underway. Isaacman donated $100 million of his own money to the fundraising goal, then donated the three other seats on Inspiration4 to raise awareness for St. Jude. Arceneaux was selected by St. Jude to fill the “Hope” seat on the crew.

If you wish to make your own donation to St. Jude, you can do so here. You can donate cash directly, or you can bid to win one or more of a variety of items that were carried on the flight.

Inspiration4 passengers scheduled for return to Earth tonight

The first entirely private manned orbital mission to space is now scheduled to return to Earth tonight, with splashdown set for 7:06 pm (eastern).

The SpaceX live stream of the landing will begin approximately 4:30 pm (eastern).

Yesterday the passengers released some videos, including a conversation with children who are cancer patients at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. They also provided a video update to the general public.

As I noted yesterday, the primary goal of this flight is to raise money for St. Jude. If you wish to send a donation to St. Jude as part of the Inspiration4 spaceflight, you can do so here. You can donate cash directly, or you can bid to win one or more of a variety of items that are on the flight now.

Inspiration4 has raised $130 million so far for St. Jude out of $200 million goal

Capitalism in space: Inspiration4, the first privately launched manned orbital mission has so far raised about $130 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, still short of the $200 million goal that Jared Isaacman had set when he bought the flight from SpaceX.

A portion of the money came from 72,000 entrants in a sweepstakes that offered the chance to win a seat on the flight. Entrants were encouraged, but not required, to donate to St. Jude, according to the contest rules, which estimated the retail value of the space flight at $2.21 million.

Crew member Chris Sembroski, a 42-year-old data engineer and U.S. Air Force veteran from Everett, Wash., entered the lottery by donating. He didn’t win, but a friend did and gave him the slot, according to the Associated Press.

If you wish to send a donation to St. Jude as part of the Inspiration4 spaceflight, you can do so here. You can donate cash directly, or you can bid to win one or more of a variety of items that are on the flight now.

The real human exploration of the solar system began on September 15, 2021

Falcon 9 at T+13 seconds

Capitalism in space: First the news: On September 15, 2021 SpaceX successfully placed four civilians into orbit using its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule.

Thus began the first private manned orbital mission in space, planned to last three days and reach an altitude of 595 kilometers or 370 miles, the highest any person has flown in space in decades.

The first stage, on its third flight, successfully landed for reuse. The Dragon capsule, Resilience, was on its second manned flight. The leaders in the 2021 launch race:

31 China
23 SpaceX
15 Russia
4 Northrop Grumman

The U.S. now leads China 34 to 31 in the national rankings.

Now the significance: There was one moment about five minutes after lift off that revealed the fundamental difference between this real flight into space and the short suborbital hops that Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic did in July.

The three most critical moments of any launch had just been completed. The first stage engines had cut off, the first stage had separated successfully, and the single upper stage engine had ignited. It was now lifting the capsule towards orbit, with the only major technical task left were its engine cut off and the separation of the Dragon capsule.

At that moment John Insprucker, principal integretion engineer for SpaceX and frequent host during its launch live streams, made a quick comment that was clearly meant to illustrate the vast difference in achievement between this flight and those two July suborbital flights. He said,
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Watching the first all-private commercial manned orbital spaceflight

Liberty and freedom enlightening the world
Liberty and freedom enlightening not only the world,
but the entire solar system.

Bumped: I will be out on a cave trip for most of today, September 15, 2021, so I’ve moved this post to the top of the page, as it clearly will be the most important space news today. I should be back before launch, but if not, enjoy!

Original post:
Capitalism in space: Let’s begin by underlining one fundamental fact about the Inspiration4 manned Dragon orbital space mission, targeted for a September 15th launch tomorrow evening, that makes it different from every other orbital space mission ever flown since Yuri Gagarin completed the first manned mission in 1961:

The government has nothing to do with it.

The launch facilities, the rocket, the capsule, the drone ship where the rocket’s first stage will land, and the entire recovery operation in the ocean are all controlled and owned by SpaceX. The passengers are private citizens, one of whom purchased the flight directly from SpaceX.

It is was organized by 38-year-old billionaire and entrepreneur Jared Isaacman, who is also a highly-capable jet warbird aircraft pilot. When he found out from SpaceX he could be the first to fly an all-commercial mission in Crew Dragon, he fronted $100 million to $200 million required and partnered with St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in a campaign to give away two of the missions seats and raise $200 Million for children’s cancer research.

Every person you will see in mission control, at the launchpad, and on the recovery ships are also private citizens, working for a private company that just happens to be in the business of flying rockets, spaceships, and humans into space. None are government employees, and I would suspect that most don’t want to be.

Not only is this mission privately run, its goals are completely different. While all past space launches were flown for purposes decided by the government, this mission’s goals have been determined by the free participants themselves. SpaceX is making money on the flight, Isaacman and his passengers are getting the chance to fulfill their long-held personal dream of going into space, and Isaacman is also using this flight to raise money for cancer research, a personal passion of his.

The flight itself will be unusual. It will be the first manned mission in more than a decade, since the last shuttle repair mission to the Hubble Space Telescope, to not go to an orbiting space station. Instead, the capsule will spend three days free-flying in orbit around the Earth. To enhance the flight for the passengers, SpaceX removed the docking port on Resilience (the capsule) and replaced it with a viewing port with large windows.

The orbit itself will in a sense push the envelope, as SpaceX plans to loft the capsule to an altitude of about 370 miles, considerably higher than ISS’s orbit of about 260 miles and about 35 miles higher than the mission to Hubble. In fact, the Inspiration4 crew will be the farthest from the Earth’s surface than any human in decades, possibly going back as far as the Apollo era.

For watching this flight I have embedded SpaceX’s live stream below, which you can also find here. You will also be able to find that stream at SpaceX’s YouTube page, where the company is also airing preflight videos.

This mission illustrates the fundamentals that built the United States of America. Give humans freedom, don’t try to tell them what to do, and they will do astonishing and magnificent things, on their own.
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Last two passengers on 1st entirely private manned spaceflight revealed

Capitalism in space: The last two passengers for the first entirely private commercial manned spaceflight, dubbed Inspiration4 and paid for by businessman Jared Isaacman, were announced yesterday, along with a launch date no earlier than September 15, 2021.

Isaacman bought the mission partly to fly in space, but also to raise money for St. Judes Children’s Research Hospital. Both Isaacman and Haley Arceneaux, a former St. Judes cancer patient, will fly. Their two new crew members are both experienced in aviation or spaceflight operations, though neither is a professional astronaut with any training in that field.

[Sian] Proctor describes herself as a scientist turned artist and an “analog astronaut” where people live in environments to simulate long-duration spaceflight. She has done four analog missions including NASA’s Hawai’i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) Habitat to simulate a trip to Mars. She is a pilot, scuba diver, “and loves geoexploring our world.” Born in Guam while her father was working at a NASA tracking station there during the Apollo program, she has a B.S. in environmental science, an M.S. in geology, and a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction: Science Education. She was a finalist in NASA’s 2009 astronaut selection.

While a U.S. Space Camp counselor, [Chris] Sembroski conducted simulated space shuttle missions and supported STEM-based education. He served in the Air Force maintaining a fleet of Minuteman III ICBMs and served in Iraq. After leaving the Air Force in 2007, he earned a B.S. in Professional Aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. He now works for the aerospace industry in Seattle, although he did not specify what company.

Their spacecraft will be Resilience, the Dragon capsule that flew the first operational manned commercial crew to ISS, and is presently docked to the station. For the Inspiration4 flight however SpaceX is going to install a large domed window at the capsule’s nose, replacing the docking port that will not be needed.