Jared Isakman to fund 3 SpaceX flights, including the first manned launch of Starship

The first flight, which could come by the end of the year, will aim to send a crew of four farther than any other human spaceflight in 50 years, and feature the first spaceflight by a private citizen, Isaacman said in an exclusive interview with The Washington Post. . The second flight will also be aboard SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft, the craft NASA is now relying on to transport astronauts to the International Space Station.

Last year, Isaacman, founder and CEO of Shift4, a payments processing company, funded what was The task is called Inspiration4. That flight sent Isaacman and three other private citizens — strangers until he was chosen for the task — into orbit for three days on a trip that raised more than $240 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

The flight reached an altitude of 367 miles, higher than the Hubble Space Telescope and most space shuttle flights, and was Powered entirely by SpaceXthat trained the crew and provided their spacesuits, Keep them alive in orbit Then it uprooted them from the Gulf of Mexico after they returned to land. With NASA observing from the sidelines, this was another sign of the erosion of the government’s long-standing monopoly on human spaceflight, as private companies become more capable and emboldened.

After the Inspiration 4 trip, Isaacman hinted that there might be more to come, saying, “It’s been a journey for us, and we’re just getting started.”

In an interview with The Post, Isaacman said he was discussing the Polaris program with SpaceX prior to the Inspiration4 mission. He said it was after the Inspiration4 trip Amazed by the wonders of space travel And eager to come back again. But he also had doubts about whether he should continue his private spaceflights because the Inspiration4 mission, which was so Dated on Netflix Series, has successfully completed many milestones. And he was afraid that he would not be able to forge a new path.

“I love space, and I definitely want to take the opportunity to go back in time,” said Isaacman, who is also a flying enthusiast and very skilled jet pilot. “I also felt like we accomplished a lot of things with Inspiration4, and I never wanted to do without that unless it had a really good impact on the world.”

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He did not want to proceed until he was convinced that the additional flights would “serve the greater purpose of making room for everyone and making the human race a multi-planetary species, and ideally, it would be of use to the things we are trying to achieve again here on Earth.”

Isaacman and SpaceX did not disclose how much he was paying for the flights, although the number could easily reach several hundred million dollars. He also didn’t specify exactly how much the Inspiration4 mission would cost, except that the price was less than $200 million.

In addition to the first commercial spacewalk, Isaacman said the first Polaris mission will seek “to go farther than anyone has gone since we last walked on the moon — in the highest Earth orbit in which anyone has ever flown.”

The flight, which will take off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, will require authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration. But the FAA considers only the safety of people and property on Earth when granting this approval and not the risks that their activities in space may pose to the crew.

The crew will also test Starlink laser-based satellite communications from SpaceX technology in space. While Starlink satellites now send Internet signals to rural areas on Earth, SpaceX hopes to use the system for human spaceflight missions to the Moon and Mars. The program will also collaborate with several universities and research institutions, including the University of Colorado at Boulder, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, and the US Air Force Academy.

The first mission will also conduct a pre- and post-spacewalk study to test how people treat decompression sickness and why it’s different, Isaacman said. The crew will also collect data on how radiation affects the human body and how microgravity changes the structure of the astronauts’ brains and eyes.

Isaacman will be the captain of the first flight of Polaris, known as Polaris Dawn. He will be joined by Scott “Kid” Bottet, a former Air Force pilot who served as mission manager for Inspiration 4, and two of SpaceX’s chief operations engineers, Sarah Gillies and Anna Menon, who help prepare the astronauts for flights aboard the company’s Dragon spacecraft. . The crew said in a statement that the four got to know each other during Mission Inspiration4 and have “a foundation of trust they can build upon as they take on the challenges of this mission.”

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Menon is married to Anil Menon, SpaceX’s first flight surgeon, which he was He was recently selected by NASA to join the astronaut team. When the couple told their 4-year-old son that Anil Menon would be an astronaut for NASA, “the first words that came out of his mouth were, ‘Mama, when are you going to be an astronaut?'” Anna Menon said in an interview.

A few weeks later, Isaacman asked her to join the Polaris crew, and now she’s likely to be in space before her husband.

In addition to setting an altitude record, the Polaris Dawn crew is also aiming for a spacewalk, which will be the first dedicated spaceflight for all citizens. Since the Dragon capsule does not have an airlock, the crew will have to wear pressurized spacesuits and slowly depressurize the cabin before opening the hatch on top of the capsule. Then they can climb outside to float in space, while being tied up with the spacecraft.

Isaacman said it had not yet been decided whether everyone would get a chance to venture outside, and that it was one detail of the operation still in the works. to perform a spacewalk, SpaceX is developing more advanced spacesuits That would keep the astronauts safe in the vacuum of space.

Spacewalking will add an extra layer of difficulty and danger to an already perilous endeavor. NASA astronauts spend months training for their spacewalks at the International Space Station, practicing underwater training in a huge pool at Johnson Space Center in Houston to simulate the weightless environment of space. Getting out of the space station is one of the most interesting things to do Dangerous activities that an astronaut can donever before seen by non-professional astronauts.

However, the Polaris crew said they are confident they can benefit from NASA’s experience and that SpaceX will be able to ensure their safety in what are known as extravehicular activities, or EVAs.

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“NASA has been a spacewalk for a long time, and there is a lot of knowledge that they have gained through the process, and we really intend to build on that,” Gillis said. “We’ve spoken with former NASA astronauts and current NASA astronauts about their EVA experiences, and how you can actually do that. Having seen that up close, I really believe in SpaceX’s processes, verification, testing process, and the really accurate look that they take in absolutely everything.”

Isakman said the team will share more details about the mission — and the two missions that will follow — in the coming months. He said that the crews of the last two flights had not been selected. But Isaacman said the program “will culminate in the first manned flight of the Starship.”

But if Isaacman and his crew flew in the plane first, that would be a key Transformation in human spaceflight. Usually, NASA relies on its more experienced astronauts for the first test flights of new rockets. In the first human flight of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, for example, a veteran NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley They were the first to test it.

Isaacman said the Starship will fly several times before its first manned flight. “I expect in a good way from SpaceX, that they will be doing a large number of flights and getting a lot of data before the first humans get on that craft,” he said.

Having a crew of citizens who will be the first to fly the spacecraft isn’t a minor matter for NASA, Isaacman said, but another sign of how space exploration is undergoing a fundamental transformation.

“NASA has paved the way for everyone — just to make it completely clear,” Isaacman said. “We are all here today because of their achievements and sacrifices from ages ago. But what we see here is that this is not exclusive to NASA. There is a lot of private money trying to make the dream of SpaceX come true.”

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