SpaceX's private Polaris Dawn orbital mission delayed to summer 2024

illustration of a person in a white spacesuit leaving a white space capsule to go on a spacewalk, with the curve of earth in the background.
Illustration of a Polaris Dawn crewmember conducting the first-ever private spacewalk. (Image credit: Polaris Program via X)

We'll have to wait a few more months to see the first-ever private spacewalk.

Launch of the private Polaris Dawn mission — which aims to notch that milestone, as well as test SpaceX's Starlink internet service in space and conduct a variety of science experiments — has been delayed from April to no earlier than this summer, its organizers announced on Thursday (Feb. 8).

"The additional time continues to provide necessary developmental time to ensure both the completion of these mission goals and a safe launch and return of Dragon and the crew," the Polaris Program said via X on Thursday.

Related: Meet the four private Polaris Dawn astronauts SpaceX will launch into orbit

As that post indicates, Polaris Dawn will use SpaceX hardware, launching four people to Earth orbit in a Crew Dragon capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket.

Those four are Jared Isaacman, the billionaire behind the Polaris Program of private space exploration, retired U.S. Air Force colonel Scott Poteet, and SpaceX employees Sarah Gillis and Anna Menon.

Isaacman will command Polaris Dawn. Poteet will serve as pilot, and Gillis and Menon will be the payload specialist and medical officer, respectively.

Polaris Dawn will spend up to five days in Earth orbit. Like September 2021's Inspiration4 mission, which Isaacman also commanded and funded, Polaris Dawn will be a free flyer; it will not meet up with the International Space Station. The coming mission will also raise money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, as Inspiration4 did.

The latest delay is not the first for Polaris Dawn; it initially was targeted to launch in late 2022.

Polaris Dawn will be the first of three missions in the Polaris Program, which Isaacman wants to help push the boundaries of private spaceflight.

The billionaire entrepreneur has said that he plans to use SpaceX's next-generation Starship rocket for at least one of the Polaris missions. Starship has conducted two test flights to date, in April and November of last year. SpaceX is currently gearing up for Starship's third flight, which could lift off as soon as this month.

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.