Next Launch:

PENDINGLaunch Time

United States of America
United States of America
Date: January 2024
Time: Not Yet Determined

This mission


Polaris Dawn Mission

The Polaris Dawn mission will take advantage of Falcon 9 and Dragon’s maximum performance, flying higher than any Dragon mission to date and endeavoring to reach the highest Earth orbit ever flown. Orbiting through portions of the Van Allen radiation belt, Polaris Dawn will conduct research with the aim of better understanding the effects of spaceflight and space radiation on human health.

Dragon will fly a crew of four and spend around five days in orbit.

The Polaris Dawn crew will perform the first commercial spacewalk in history. At approximately 700 kilometers above the Earth, 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. Building a base on the Moon and a city on Mars will require thousands of spacesuits; the development of this suit and the execution of the EVA will be important steps toward a scalable design for spacesuits on future long-duration missions.

The 38 selected projects from 23 partner institutions are designed to advance both human health on Earth and on future long-duration spaceflights.

While each experiment was selected for inclusion in the mission profile, additional testing and qualification requirements are underway. A final list of approved-to-fly experiments will be published closer to launch.

Each bullet denotes a unique science and research experiment planned for the Polaris Dawn mission.

Baylor College of Medicine: TRISH – BioBank (HSGC Omics): Biospecimens from the Biobank are also stored at Baylor College of Medicine as part of an omics study. This study aims to perform the gold standard omics analysis to start building an understanding of the effects of space on the human body.

TRISH – Expand Intra-Cranial Pressure: Spaceflight Associated Neuroocular Syndrome (SANS) is a set of symptoms affecting the vision of astronauts. Currently, it is believed that SANS symptoms are caused by increased pressure in the brain during spaceflight. One way to directly measure pressure in the brain is by performing a lumbar puncture. This procedure will be performed as close to landing as possible to determine if the crewmembers’ brain pressures increased during spaceflight.

TRISH – SANS Surveillance: This project collects SANS-related ocular images and vision function data during ground phases of the mission closely following NASA’s protocols. As SANS is NASA’s top human spaceflight risk, and the data collected in this project will create a new dataset, comparable to existing SANS-related datasets collected by NASA on its government astronauts.

Embry Riddle Aeronautical University: LLAMAS: Literally Looking at More Astronauts in Space (LLAMAS) is a student-led project from the Embry Riddle Aeronautical University Space Technologies Lab. The team seeks to design and build a camera to capture immersive views of the Polaris Dawn EVA.

Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth: Stone Risk: Weightlessness causes both bone and muscle loss. This loss varies from person to person, but the ability to identify in flight those crewmembers who are most affected, so that countermeasures can be targeted to them, doesn’t currently exist. This study will examine whether first-morning urine samples could provide a simple way to track astronaut bone and muscle health in space to individualize countermeasure programs.

Johns Hopkins University: Otolith & Posture: Motion sickness is commonly experienced in spaceflight, both upon entering space and after returning to Earth. However, there is a lot of individual variability both to the degree of motion sickness and how long it lasts. One theory to explain these differences lies in the tiny crystals that reside in the inner ear and sense gravity. The theory is that some people have more or larger stones in one ear than the other – or are more sensitive to their motion on one side than the other – and that the brain has learned to compensate for this difference (asymmetry). However, in space, this learned compensation is not appropriate (since it was learned in 1 g on Earth), and this causes space motion sickness. This study will test these differences between the two ears using a tablet computer. If motion sickness is caused by this asymmetry, this could give astronauts insight to motion sickness susceptibility and help them prepare accordingly.

KBR & Level Ex: Ultrasound Innovation: During space exploration missions, the crew must be prepared to diagnose and treat themselves as medical issues arise. Intelligent medical imagining tools could assist non-physician astronauts understand changes happening inside the body. In this study, the Polaris Dawn crew will use a miniaturized, intelligent ultrasound to scan themselves and collect medical-grade images.

Keck School of Medicine of USC: Space Radiology: In-flight space medicine will be necessary for long-term human spaceflight missions, and radiology will be a critical component, both for diagnostics and interventions. However, access to X-ray imaging is required to evaluate and treat life-threatening pathologies of deep organs such as brain, heart, and lungs. The objective is proof of principle experiments to determine if the ambient space radiation can be used as a first step to achieve in-flight, X-ray radiographs in space.

Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University: ONS Ultrasound: Ultrasound imaging is a powerful medical and research tool for future exploration missions with a small footprint and a broad functionality. The Polaris Dawn crew will use a novel 3-D ultrasound device to build 3-D images of the structure of the eye to better understand the many changes eyes undergo in microgravity in preparation for both short- and long-duration space exploration.

Medical University of South Carolina: Brain MRI: Using a novel, portable MRI (Hyperfine), Polaris Dawn crewmembers’ brains will be imaged within hours of returning from space. This will be the first time an astronaut’s brain has been imaged so close to landing and will help explain if the brain changes observed in other astronauts are due to re-adaptation to Earth or reflective of their brains in space.

NASA: Intranasal Scopolomine: Motion sickness is commonly experienced in spaceflight, both upon entering space and after returning to Earth. Most motion sickness medications have many unwanted side effects that are less than ideal when launching or landing, including drowsiness. Intranasal scopolamine (scopolamine delivered into the nostril) has been shown to be effective against motion sickness without many of the unwanted side effects. Another benefit of this drug is the speed of its efficacy, so can be used as a “rescue” drug as opposed to most motion sickness medication that requires it to be taken before any symptoms occur.

Occupant Protection: Launching into space and returning to Earth causes the human body to undergo substantial forces. The spacecraft’s seat and respective restraints, spacesuit, and vehicle dynamics determine the forces astronauts are exposed to. Sex, age, anthropometry, and spaceflight deconditioning are just a few of the characteristics that play a role in how well these loads are tolerated. This study aims to identify the injury risk based on all of these factors. That information will be used to assess future risk of injury and develop mitigations.

Radiation Measurements: Astronauts have reported seeing flashes of light when their eyes are closed. This is caused by radiation exposure in space, but many questions still exist as to exactly how and why this effect happens. The Polaris Dawn mission’s unique, high-altitude orbit will expose the crew to more radiation than a trip to the International Space Station. This provides a unique opportunity to study the light flash phenomenon in more depth, as we expect more light flashes to occur in higher radiation environments.

Nebula Research & Development and the International Institute for Astronautical Sciences: Automated Pupillometery: Automated pupillometers are a widespread tool to measure intracranial pressure non-invasively, most commonly used in intensive care units. Most researchers believe the headward fluid shifts caused by microgravity result in increased intracranial pressure in astronauts, possibly leading to Spaceflight Associated Neuroocular Syndrome (SANS). This study proposes using the common hospital tool as a way to non-invasively measure intracranial pressure in spaceflight.

Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI): Anemia: All astronauts return from space with anemia. Recent data revealed that red blood cells death was increased in space. This collaborative study will implement novel, cutting-edge technologies to uncover key mechanisms of spaceflight-related anemia.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory: Orbital High-Energy Space Neutron Activation Project: The amount and energies of neutrons produced when galactic cosmic rays interact with spacecraft, such as the Dragon spacecraft, are not well characterized. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s (PNNL) Orbital High-energy Space Neutron Activation Project (OHSNAP) experiment seeks to measure the high-energy neutron environment in the Dragon spacecraft using materials to record neutron interactions, followed by measurement of those materials using ultra-sensitive detectors at PNNL. This information will be used to better estimate the amount and type of radiation exposure the human spaceflight crews would be subject to on future missions and for comparison to model predictions.

Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania: Cognition and Physiology: The Polaris Dawn crew’s cognitive performance will be monitored with NASA’s Cognition test battery administered with the Joggle Research app (Pulsar Informatics Inc.) on a tablet device during all phases of the mission. Cognition was designed for high-performing astronauts and consists of ten tests that cover a range of cognitive domains relevant to spaceflight including memory, abstraction, spatial orientation, emotion recognition, risk decision-making, and sustained attention. The Polaris Dawn crew will also collect physiological and movement data with a Garmin smartwatch and a novel single-electrode sensor (BioButton, BioIntelliSense Inc.) that will be correlated with the cognitive test data, alertness, and mood survey responses, the Dragon spacecraft’s environment (e.g., carbon dioxide and temperature levels), and the outcomes of the other investigators (e.g., spaceflight-induced changes in brain structure).

Space Team – Neoteryx, CMU, DU: Pharmacokinetics: Spaceflight alters human physiology due to fluid shifts, muscle, and bone loss, immune system dysregulation, and changes in the gastrointestinal tract and metabolic enzymes. These alterations may change how the body processes medications and subsequently might impact drug efficacy and safety. Currently, medications are administered under the assumption they act in a similar way as on Earth. The Polaris Dawn crew will perform a study to determine how the body processes certain common pharmaceuticals, becoming one of the first evidence-based studies of how medications are processed in space.

SpaceX: CGM: One of SpaceX and Polaris Dawn’s driving goals is to make space accessible to more people. More than 10% of the population in the United States is diabetic. With the ability to monitor glucose levels in space, diabetic astronauts will be able to fly with confidence knowing they can manage their diabetes as well in space as on the ground. The fluid shifts that occur in space may affect the accuracy of continuous glucose monitors; this study aims to validate a continuous glucose monitor over the duration of the Polaris Dawn mission.

CPR in SpaceX’s Dragon Spacecraft: Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a life-saving intervention that requires someone to forcibly pump an unconscious person’s heart by compressing their chest repetitively. Although this has yet to be required in spaceflight, as we continue to expand access to space, the chances of requiring this intervention increase. Additionally, microgravity makes chest compressions exceedingly challenging. The International Space Station has a procedure if CPR were to be required, but no procedures or best practices exist for SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft. The Polaris Dawn crew will experiment to find the optimal positioning to perform CPR and use a CPR training device to validate the procedures.

Functional Tasks: Adaptation to microgravity causes astronauts to experience severe balance and coordination challenges once they return to a gravitational environment. Currently, astronauts are welcomed back to Earth with medical doctors, nurses, and recovery teams. Future exploration missions will require crews to be self-sufficient upon landing on the Moon or Mars. A sensorimotor assessment will be critical to help them determine when they are ready to safely leave the vehicle and start exploring.

SpaceX & NASA: VacuuMed Stability Study: Pharmaceuticals are used in the treatment of most medical disorders; however, the spaceflight environment may affect the efficacy, safety, and composition of medications that astronauts rely on to assure health and performance. This study will test commonly used pharmaceuticals for physical and chemical changes after short-term exposure to the spaceflight environment.

SpaceX & University of Calgary: Bone Health: Using a rare, cutting-edge high-resolution CT scan of bone density and structure, Polaris Dawn crewmembers’ wrists and ankles will be scanned. The goal of this study is to identify early signs of bone loss and structural changes. If detected, this would be the earliest bone loss has been imaged, and a demonstration that bone structural changes happen within a relatively short five days in microgravity.

TRISH – Baylor College of Medicine: Sleep: It’s common for astronauts to experience poor sleep quality in space, resulting from stress and disrupted circadian rhythms. This survey will capture the Polaris Dawn crew’s individual sleep experiences and quality to provide contextual data that will aid researchers in studying and improving astronaut sleep. The questionnaire is part of TRISH Essential Measures, which provide contextual information for other Polaris Dawn research.

Personality: Space exploration is both physically and psychologically challenging. Yet the success of a space mission requires close cooperation and crew cohesion. This questionnaire investigates the personality traits that make a crew and their mission successful. The questionnaire is part of TRISH Essential Measures, which provide contextual information for other Polaris Dawn research.

Health: Working with commercial astronauts allows researchers to study the health history and habits of new and diverse spaceflight participants. This questionnaire collects additional data points for researchers looking for new health and safety protections for astronauts. The questionnaire is part of TRISH Essential Measures, which provide contextual information for other Polaris Dawn research.

Immune: Existing evidence suggests spaceflight environment impairs immune system function in space travelers. In a series of research questions, scientists will collect historical data on the Polaris Dawn crew’s immune systems, increasing the wealth of medical data for researchers investigating the body’s immune response to spaceflight. The data collected may lead to immune system protections for future astronauts. The questionnaire is part of TRISH Essential Measures, which provide contextual information for other Polaris Dawn research.

University of Colorado Boulder: Cross-Coupled Illusion: Weightlessness causes bone density loss, muscle loss, and brain changes, and affects every system in the human body. Artificial gravity would prevent these changes and make long-duration spaceflight much more tolerable for the human body. One of the easiest ways to provide artificial gravity is with a short-radius centrifuge. However, the short-radius centrifuge can be quite disorienting due to a sensation called the cross-coupled illusion, which makes people feel as if they’re tumbling if they move their heads slightly while being spun in the centrifuge. It is possible that this sensation may not happen once the body has adapted to microgravity. This would make the short-radius centrifuge an appealing option for providing artificial gravity on future exploration missions.

Eye Changes: Relatively recently, it was discovered that astronauts were experiencing Spaceflight Associated Neuroocular Syndrome (SANS), which symptoms include swelling of the optic nerve, changes in the shape of the eye, and changes to vision. It is thought this is due to the absence of gravity acting on the body, causing a headward fluid shift and may lead to changes in pressure in the brain and eye. To identify the initial adaptation of the eye upon entering microgravity, the Polaris Dawn crew will don smart contact lenses with tiny micro-sensors that continuously measure the pressure inside their eyes. The crewmembers will also measure whether their vision changes on-orbit. This data could confirm fluid shifts are indeed causing changes to the eye, which may ultimately contribute to SANS.

Gravity Transitions: When going to space, crewmembers are exposed to sustained microgravity. Anecdotally, astronauts report an “inversion illusion” in which they feel like they are tumbling forward upside down. While this is a fundamental experience (e.g., going from having gravity to suddenly not), this has never been studied systematically. Upon main engine cutoff, Polaris Dawn crewmembers will pay attention to the sensations they experience in order to capture the feeling. Additionally, crewmembers will pay attention and report sensations upon re-entry to a gravitational environment. We anticipate the Polaris Dawn crew will experience an illusion sensation of pitching backward or even translating backward when reintroduced to gravity.

GVS Disorientation: Upon returning to Earth, astronauts suffer from balance and coordination challenges that are a result of their brain readapting to gravity. This study aims to test an analog of that feeling, sending electricity through the inner ears to simulate the balance and coordination challenges astronauts experience. If accurate, this tool could be used to introduce future human spaceflight crews to the sensation during training.

Repeat Flyer Motion Sickness: Generally, when astronauts go to space more than once, their motion sickness is reduced compared to their initial flight. Researchers do not know if that is because astronauts have come up with techniques to avoid provoking motion sickness or if there is a lasting adaptation or habituation to the microgravity environment. To test this, Polaris Dawn crewmembers will perform provocative head movements and then rank their motion sickness.

University of Hawaii: 4C Model: Being weightless in microgravity unloads muscles and bones, resulting in a loss of muscle strength and bone density. Similarly, microgravity causes a shift of fluids towards the head, causing swelling of the face and thinning of the lower extremities. Long-duration exploration missions will require a way to monitor body composition and body shape to help monitor health and fitness. This project proposes a space-feasible body composition and body shape analysis achievable with a smartphone and smartwatch.

The University of Texas Medical Branch – with SpaceX: Airway Assessment: Astronauts in microgravity experience a shift of fluids toward the head that may cause swelling of the airways. Airway swelling is well-known to make certain life-saving interventions more difficult to perform successfully. In this study, we will use a fiberoptic camera and ultrasound device to take images and measurements of the vocal cords, larynx, and soft tissue of the upper airway. This information will be critical to informing future planning for spaceflight medical emergencies such as choking, allergic reactions, or need for intubation, and delivery of general anesthesia to facilitate surgery in space.

USAFA: LEO Plants: The United States Air Force Academy will conduct its first low-Earth orbit botanical space experiment on the Polaris Dawn mission. This investigation of microgravity, magnetic, and fungal influences on root growth will inform plant growth procedures for food viability and sustainability on the Moon or Mars. Additionally, this experiment will provide actionable physical and genetic data relative to plant growth to improve food production here on Earth.

UT Health: Medication Processing: Fluid shifts caused by microgravity affects blood flow in the body. It is possible that veins in the liver and kidney have reduced capabilities in the space environment. This is critical in understanding how the body processes medications in space, which could change medication dosages or efficacy. This study will use Doppler ultrasonography of the liver and kidneys to measure blood flow and feed that information into models of how medication is processed in the body.

Weill Cornell: BioBank: As spaceflight becomes available to a broader range of humanity, there is an opportunity to characterize how spaceflight affects the human body at the genetic level. To achieve that, biological specimens are collected from commercial astronauts before, during, and after the mission. The samples are held within a federated repository, a Biobank, and are made available to any researcher with an ethics-approved study. This particular study focuses on novel and exploratory genetic analysis, pushing the boundaries of what we know about the effects of space on the human body.

SOMA: This study focuses on novel and exploratory genetic and molecular analyses (multi-omics).

Payload data is provided by Polaris Dawn and available here.

Polaris Crew headshots provided by John Kraus for Polaris Dawn.

Launch Tracker header image for the Polaris Dawn mission courtesy of John Kraus for Polaris Dawn. Images can be found by clicking here.

EVA graphic courtesy of Polaris Dawn.

With this


Polaris Dawn Crew

Meet the crew of the historic Polaris Dawn mission

Jared Isaacman, Mission Commander

Jared Isaacman is the CEO of Shift4 (NYSE: FOUR), the leader in integrated payment processing solutions. He is an accomplished pilot & astronaut with over 7,000 flight hours of aviation experience, including ratings in multiple experimental and ex-military aircraft. He was the commander of Inspiration4, the world’s first all-civilian mission to space that helped raise over $240 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital® to help eradicate childhood cancer.

Jared also holds several world records including two speed-around-the-world flights in 2008 and 2009 that raised money and awareness for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. He has flown in over 100 airshows as part of the Black Diamond Jet Team, dedicating every performance to charitable causes. In 2011, Isaacman co-founded what would become the world’s largest private air force, Draken International, to train pilots for the United States Armed Forces.

Scott Poteet, Mission Pilot

Scott “Kidd” Poteet is a retired United States Air Force Lieutenant Colonel who served 20 years in various roles that include Commander of the 64th Aggressor Squadron, USAF Thunderbird #4 Demonstration Pilot, USAF Weapons School Graduate, Operational Test & Evaluation Pilot, and Flight Examiner. Kidd is a command pilot with over 3,200 flying hours in the F-16, A-4, T-38, T-37, T-3, and Alpha Jet. Kidd has logged over 400 hours of combat time during Operations Northern Watch, Southern Watch, Joint Guardian, Freedom’s Sentinel, and Resolute Support.

Following his Air Force career, Kidd served in various roles including Director of Business Development at Draken International and VP of Strategy at Shift4 (NYSE: FOUR). He most recently served as the Mission Director of Inspiration4, the world’s first all-civilian mission to space that helped raise over $240 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital® in an effort to help eradicate childhood cancer. Kidd is also an accomplished collegiate runner and triathlete, competing in 15 Ironman triathlons since 2000, which includes four Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

Sarah Gillis, Mission Specialist

Sarah Gillis is a Lead Space Operations Engineer at SpaceX, responsible for overseeing the company’s astronaut training program. This includes the development of mission-specific curriculum and training execution for both NASA and commercial astronauts who fly aboard the Dragon spacecraft. She prepared NASA astronauts for the first Demo-2 and Crew-1 missions, and most recently directly trained the Inspiration4 astronauts, the first all-civilian crew to go to orbit. Sarah is an experienced mission control operator, who has supported real-time operations for Dragon’s cargo resupply missions to and from the International Space Station as a Navigation Officer, and as a crew communicator for Dragon’s human spaceflight missions.

Raised from a young age to be a classical violinist, Sarah changed directions when a beloved high-school mentor, former NASA astronaut Joe Tanner, encouraged her to pursue a degree in aerospace engineering. In 2015, while studying engineering and dance at the University of Colorado, Boulder, Sarah started an internship at SpaceX, working on human-in-the-loop testing of the Dragon spacecraft interior before moving into the astronaut training program full-time. Originally from Boulder, Colorado, Sarah is an avid hiker, climber, and adventurer, all of which let her enjoy one of her favorite things – a cup of hot coffee while camping in the wilderness.

Anna Menon, Mission Specialist & Medical Officer

Anna Menon is a Lead Space Operations Engineer at SpaceX, where she manages the development of crew operations and serves in mission control as both a Mission Director and crew communicator. During her tenure at SpaceX, she has led the implementation of Dragon’s crew capabilities, helped create the crew communicator operator role, and developed critical operational responses to vehicle emergencies such as a fire or cabin depressurization. Anna served in mission control during multiple Dragon missions, such as Demo-2, Crew-1, CRS-22, CRS-23, Crew-3, Crew-4, and Axiom-1.

Prior to SpaceX, Anna worked for seven years at NASA as a biomedical flight controller for the International Space Station. In this role, she supported space station crews from mission control, helped integrate international partner engineers and medical care, and led the planning and execution of all biomedical operations for Expedition 47/48. She received her bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and Spanish from Texas Christian University and her master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from Duke University. Service and applying her engineering background to helping others is important to Anna.

Immediately after the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, she supported the World Health Organization water and sanitation response and has also volunteered with the Engineers Without Borders and Engineering World Health organizations. Her dream of flying to space began in fourth grade when her teacher Alison Smith Balch (daughter of Space Shuttle Challenger pilot Michael J. Smith) took her on an immersive field trip at NASA.

In addition to pursuing her lifelong passion for space, Anna enjoys hiking, flying small airplanes, and salsa dancing and her greatest love is her wonderful family, including her husband Anil, son James, and daughter Grace.

Photo courtesy of John Kraus for Polaris Dawn.

All captions and descriptions courtesy of the Polaris Dawn mission.

On this


Dragon - Resilience

Dragon - Resilience

In keeping with a tradition started by NASA Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on the first crewed Dragon mission, the Crew-1 astronauts who first flew this particular capsule also named it.

The name Resilience was chosen to acknowledge those who are experiencing extraordinary hardships during the COVID-19 pandemic and to those who continue to experience persecution and oppression around the world.

The capsule's first mission lasted 167 days, parking at ISS from November 2020 to May 2021.


Height: 8.1 m / 26.7 ft

Diameter: 4 m / 13 ft

Capsule Volume: 9.3 m / 328 ft

Trunk Volume: 37 m / 1300 ft

Launch Payload Mass: 6,000 kg / 13,228 lbs

Return Payload Mass: 3,000 kg / 6,614 lbs


Total Launches: 41

Visits to the ISS: 36

Total Reflights: 18

According to the Astronaut Database, SpaceX has now launched 38 humans to orbit on Crew Dragon, beginning with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley in May of 2020.

Crew Dragon

The first privately developed human orbital spacecraft.

Called Crew Dragon, but known officially as Dragon v2, this SpaceX capsule is designed to carry a maximum of four passengers to the International Space Station or other Earth orbit destinations after being launched atop a reusable Falcon 9 rocket.

The capsule includes a launch abort system, advanced environmental control and life support system that keeps the crew safe during flight and state-of-the-art touchscreen interfaces.

Crew Dragon is designed to operate autonomously but can be manually controlled by SpaceX teams in Hawthorne, California, and the astronauts on board.

Under the contracted crew rotation missions to the Space Station for NASA, Dragon will carry a regular crew of 4 international astronauts.

Crew Dragon is also available for private missions to Earth orbit for paying customers.

For missions to the Station, Crew Dragon can remain in orbit for up to 6 months.

Photo credit: SpaceX

Atop this


Falcon 9 with Dragon (Crew)

Falcon 9 is a reusable, two-stage rocket designed and manufactured by SpaceX for the reliable and safe transport of people and payloads into Earth orbit and beyond.

Falcon 9 is the world’s first orbital-class reusable rocket.


Total launches: 258

Total landings: 216

Total reflights: 191

The Falcon 9 has launched 42 humans into orbit since May 2020


Height: 70 m / 229.6 ft

Diameter: 3.7 m / 12 ft

Mass: 549,054 kg / 1,207,920 lb

Payload to LEO: 22,800 kg / 50,265 lb

Payload to GTO: 8,300 kg / 18,300 lb

Payload to Mars: 4,020 kg / 8,860 lb

On January 24, 2021, Falcon 9 launched the first ride-share mission to Sun Synchronous Orbit. It was delivering a record-setting 143 satellites to space. And while this was an important mission for SpaceX in itself, it was also the moment Falcon 9 overtook United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V for the total number of consecutive successful launches.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 had become America’s workhorse rocket, launching 31 times in 2021. It has already beaten that record this year, launching almost an average of once a week. While most of the launches deliver Starlink satellites to orbit, the company is still launching the most commercial payloads to orbit, too.

Falcon 9 is a medium-lift launch vehicle, with the capability to launch over 22.8 metric tonnes to low earth orbit. Unlike any other rocket, its first stage lands back on Earth after separating from its second stage. In part, this allows SpaceX to offer the cheapest option for most customers with payloads that need to reach orbit.

Under its ride-share program, a kilogram can be placed in a sun-synchronous orbit for a mere 1.1 million dollars, far cheaper than all other currently operating small satellite launch vehicles.

The reusability and fast booster turnaround times have made Falcon 9 the preferred choice for private companies and government agencies. This has allowed SpaceX to capture a huge portion of the launch market.

Protecting the Crew

On the launch pad, the crew will board Dragon prior to fueling of the rocket.

Dragon's abort system will be armed and ready to pull the crew away from Falcon 9 in the event a critical issue develops during fueling.

The launch to a 200 x 200 km orbit will take just under 9 minutes.

Dragon and its crew will then separate from the Falcon 9 second stage 11 minutes after liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center.

Photo by Erik Kuna for Supercluster

From this

launch site

LC-39A Kennedy Space Center, Florida
January 31, 2024

NASA's historic Kennedy Space Center is located on Cape Canaveral, Florida, and has hosted decades of historic space missions since the early days of the Apollo program.

Today, Kennedy Space Center is a multi-user spaceport and hosts private companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, SpaceX, and others.

SpaceX leases Launch Complex 39A at NASA's flagship facility and uses the pad to launch its Falcon Heavy and Falcon 9 rockets. The pad is also used to launch missions for the Commercial Crew Program for which SpaceX launches astronauts to the Space Station for NASA aboard their Crew Dragon capsule.

Launch Complex 39A was previously used by NASA to launch the Apollo 11 mission to land the first humans on the moon and Space Shuttle missions to assemble the International Space Station and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope.

Image: Jenny Hautmann for Supercluster

Booster will

land here

Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1)
January 31, 2024


Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1) is an 86 meter wide circular landing pad at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and is one of two SpaceX booster landing pads at the Florida spaceport.

Built on former Launch Complex 13, LZ-1 was the site of SpaceX's first successful landing and recovery of a Falcon 9 on the ORBCOMM-2 mission in December 2015. Since then, it has hosted 16 landings.

The landing pad, as well as its twin, LZ-2 located a few dozen meters away, can support both single landings of a Falcon 9 or simultaneous landings of the two Falcon Heavy side boosters.

Photo: Jenny Hautmann for Supercluster

Here's where to view Polaris Dawn

Viewing Sites
  • Alan Shepard Park
  • A. Max Brewer Parkway Bridge
  • Saturn V Building / Banana Creek
  • Cherie Down Park
  • Cocoa Beach Pier
  • Exploration Tower
  • Jetty Park
  • Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
  • Lori Wilson Park
  • Playalinda Beach
  • Rotary Riverfront Park
  • Sand Point Park
  • Sidney Fischer Park
  • Space View Park

Space is for everyone. Here’s a link to share the launch with your friends.