How billionaire Jared Isaacman is using fighter jets to prepare his crew for private SpaceX missions

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  • Billionaire founder Jared Isaacman is actively preparing for the first launch of the Polaris program in partnership with Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
  • Isaacman’s crew of four uses fighter jets, including aircraft from his personal fleet, to prepare for an orbital flight on the first mission, called Polaris Dawn.
  • “We want to use as much time as possible, [the launch] for learning as much as possible,” Isaacman said, adding that “using fighter jets is a great analog” to spaceflight.

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Astronauts love fighter jets, and billionaire founder Jared Isaacman is no exception.

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Isaacman, founder of payments company Shift4, is actively training with his team ahead of the first space flight under the Polaris program, announced earlier this year in partnership with Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Isaacman’s crew of four uses fighter jets, including aircraft from his personal fleet, to prepare for an orbital flight on the first mission, called Polaris Dawn.

“We can’t fly into space very often [and there] There’s a lot of planning that goes into a mission,” Isaacman told CNBC’s Morgan Brennan at an airfield in Bozeman, Montana.

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“We want to use as much time as possible, [the launch] for learning as much as possible,” Isaacman said, adding that “using fighter jets is a great analog” to spaceflight. This follows the practice that NASA uses with its own astronaut corps.

While Polaris Dawn was originally scheduled to take place in the fourth quarter of 2022, Isaacman said the mission is expected to launch “early next year.” This is the first of three missions, the last of which is expected to be the first manned launch of a SpaceX Starship rocket.

Isaacman outlined three goals for the program: reach the highest orbit around the Earth that humans have ever flown, perform a spacewalk outside the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, and use Starlink Internet satellites for communication. He also said that about 40 science and research payloads will be deployed as part of the mission.

Isaacman said SpaceX is “making a big investment” in the project in the form of spacesuit development and replacement parts for the Crew Dragon spacecraft. Polaris was co-created with Musk “shortly after the Inspiration4 mission” last year, the first private SpaceX mission to spend three days in orbit with a crew of four and raise more than $200 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Isaacman said.

“I didn’t think I would fly into space again” after Inspiration4, Isaacman said, but “seeing the direction that SpaceX is going with Starship — being able to participate in a real development program… was pretty exciting.”

– Morgan Brennan reported this story from Bozeman and Michael Schitz reported it from Paris.

Credit: www.cnbc.com /

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