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Good morning. A Russian cargo ship is on its way to the ISS. The Progress 80 freighter will orbit Earth 30+ times before it docks with the station, which is scheduled to take place in the wee hours of Thursday morning. 

Today’s newsletter:
🐍 Polaris Dawn
🚀 Launcher manufacturing
🔃 On the move

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  Jared Isaacman and SpaceX Announce Polaris Program

Left to right: Menon, Poteet, Isaacman, Gillis. Image: Polaris Program/John Kraus
Left to right: Menon, Poteet, Isaacman, Gillis. Image: Polaris Program/John Kraus

Rook can’t get enough of space. 

At least, that’s the vibe we’re getting from Jared “Rook” Isaacman, the billionaire CEO of Shift4 Payments and commander/financier of Inspiration4. Yesterday, Isaacman announced that he’d purchase three additional crewed spaceflight missions from SpaceX. The trio of missions, dubbed the Polaris Program, is slated for launch in late 2022 and 2023.

Isaacman isn’t known for shying away from ambitious mission goals, and Polaris is no exception. All three Polaris missions are funded by SpaceX and Isaacman personally, Isaacman said in a press conference yesterday. He declined to reveal how program costs were split up.

Mission I: Polaris Dawn, the first mission of the bunch, is scheduled for launch in Q4 2022. The mission will launch on a Falcon 9/Crew Dragon combo and last for up to five days.

SpaceX announced its first very own astronaut corps in the Polaris Dawn crew:

  • Jared Isaacman (of course) as mission commander.
  • Scott Poteet, a retired US Air Force lieutenant colonel, as mission pilot. Poteet, a close confidant and business associate of Isaacman, was mission director of Inspiration4.
  • Sarah Gillis, a SpaceX lead space operations engineer, will serve as Polaris Dawn’s mission specialist.
  • Anna Menon, also a SpaceX lead space operations engineer, will serve as the other mission specialist and medical officer. (Fun fact: Menon is married to Anil Menon, a member of NASA’s 2021 astronaut class. Talk about a power couple.)

Polaris Dawn aims to reach the highest Earth orbit ever flown. That record is currently held by Gemini XI at an altitude of 1379 km (~857 mi). Up that high, the radiation environment is much more powerful, and SpaceX will need to factor in how to protect the astronauts aboard Crew Dragon from radiation exposure.

And the ambitious plans don’t stop there. SpaceX plans to conduct the first ever commercial spacewalk from Polaris Dawn, too. Crew Dragon doesn’t have an airlock, so the entire cabin will need to be depressurized before a crew member can step outside. And for that extravehicular activity (EVA), SpaceX is working on a new spacesuit design.

  • Polaris Dawn will also perform some science and tech experiments, including testing laser communication capabilities with Starlink satellites for the first time. In-Dragon WiFi, anyone? 
  • SpaceX has maintained that laser comms will be vital for future missions to Mars.

Mission II: The second Polaris mission will also launch on a Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon. Not much information has been released about Mission II yet, but we can expect some variation on the laser comms, science, and human spaceflight cornerstones of the first. 

Mission III: The last Polaris mission will be—drumroll please—the first crewed flight of Starship. The timing for that flight is still up in the air. Isaacman said in the press conference that the goal is to gain “an awful lot of experience with Starship” through non-crewed, low-Earth orbit flights before loading any humans into the super-heavy rocket.

  Launcher Hires Tim Berry as Head of Manufacturing

Via Launcher
Via Launcher

Today, Hawthorne-based Launcher announced the appointment of Tim Berry as head of manufacturing. Berry spent over eight years across town at SpaceX, most recently serving as manager of additive manufacturing.

  • Before that, he led teams integrating SpaceX Dragon Crew and Cargo spacecraft. And from 2013 to 2019, Berry oversaw the production of 90 flight-rated Falcon 9 upper stages. 

“With an insanely cool product mix driven by a talented design team and a laser focus on quality, cost, and performance, I look forward to facilitating Launcher’s growth,” Berry said in a statement. 

  • Last June, Launcher opened a 24,000-sq-ft. production facility, which prominently features 3D printers from Velo3D and EOS. 
  • From the get-go, Launcher is pursuing a vertically integrated model by developing “every major part” of its spacecraft and rocket engines in-house.

Launcher’s product lineup: 

  • Orbiter = an orbital transfer vehicle. Last week, Launcher said it had booked three additional SpaceX Transporter rideshares for Orbiter. Launcher’s first Orbiter is set to launch in October, with the three additional missions taking place in Jan., April, and Oct. 2023. 
  • E-2 = Launcher’s closed-cycle, staged-combustion liquid rocket engine. Launcher says a single E-2 will power the first stage of its forthcoming rocket. 
  • Light = A small rocket with an advertised 150 kg-to-LEO payload capacity. Launcher is targeting 2024 for Light’s maiden flight. 

In Other News

  • The FAA delayed its Starbase environmental review deadline by a month to March 28. In related news, SpaceX de-stacked Starship and Super Heavy using its south Texas launch tower chopsticks.
  • Virgin Galactic (NYSE:SPCE) will open ticket sales to the general public starting tomorrow. A spaceflight reservation will set you back $450,000, and includes a $150,000 initial deposit.
  • Jio and SES (PA/LUX:SESG) formed a joint venture to bring satellite-based broadband services to India. The Indian telco owns 51% of the JV and SES owns a 49% stake. 
  • Maritime Launch Services is in talks to go public via SPAC, Bloomberg reported last Friday. The SPAC sponsor, Ceres, initially selected a cannabis producer as its SPAC acquisition target last year, but the deal was abandoned.
  • New bipartisan legislation introduced in the House aims to modernize FCC satellite licensing for non-GEO constellations, in an age of proliferating LEO applications. 

On the Move

  • ESA has invited 1,361 astronaut hopefuls to phase two of its selection process (from over 22,500 applications). Of the remaining applicants, 530 are women and 831 are men.
  • Terran Orbital, ahead of an expected SPAC merger with Tailwind Two (NYSE:TWNT), appointed Eric Leeds as VP of Investor Relations. Previously, Leeds led IR at a number of publicly traded companies. 
  • Relativity Space hired Peloton COO Mariana Garavaglia as its first chief business and people officer. Garavaglia has served as an advisor to Relativity since last summer. 
  • The Pentagon appointed Michael Bloomberg as the new head of the Defense Innovation Board. Bloomberg founded Bloomberg and also ran for president in 2016. 
  • CASIS, which manages the ISS National Lab, added Margaret Jenny and John Sheets to its board of directors. 
  • Ursa Major, a rocket engine developer, hired Mark Groskreurtz as chief engineer. Groskreurtz was previously director of turbomachinery at SpaceX. 
  • Satellogic (NASDAQ:SATL) appointed Joseph F. Dunford Jr., former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to its board of directors.

The View from Sriharikota

ISRO, India’s space agency, launched three satellites Sunday aboard PSLV-C52. The four-stage rocket represented the 54th mission of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) program. Image: ISRO

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