The Polaris Ghost Squadron

Text and photography by Claude La Freniere
Recently, aerospace enthusiasts were treated to an exhilarating display by the civilian aerobatic team, Polaris Ghost Squadron, at the SUN 'n FUN aerospace exhibition in Lakeland, Florida, from April 7 to 13. This elite squadron, featuring a fleet of eight aircraft, including a standout MiG-29, wowed crowds with its precision and prowess.
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Aircraft of Ghost Squadron, one MIG-29, three Alpha Jets and four L-39 Albatros, feature a striking grayscale camouflage.
The Polaris Ghost Squadron originates from the visionary Polaris space mission program, a commercial spaceflight initiative spearheaded and funded by billionaire philanthropist, professional pilot, and astronaut Jared Isaacman. The program's crew includes Isaacman as flight commander, former US Air Force pilot Scott Poteet as mission pilot, and SpaceX manager and operations engineers Sarah Gillis and Anna Menon as mission specialists. This initiative follows SpaceX's groundbreaking Inspiration 4 mission in 2021, where Isaacman and three civilians achieved the first all-civilian flight to space, raising $250 million for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
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The MiG-29, a rare privately-owned example belonging to Isaacman, is the centerpiece of the squadron. It was previously operated by the Ukraine Air Force and was purchased many years before the current war.
The fleet, painted in a striking grayscale camouflage, includes eight planes with the MiG-29, a rare privately-owned example belonging to Isaacman, as its centerpiece. Known as the Fulcrum, this iconic combat aircraft was developed by the Soviet Union in the 1970s for Cold War air superiority and has since seen service in various international fleets. This particular MiG-29, previously owned by Ukraine and purchased many years before the current war, boasts supersonic capabilities, reaching speeds up to 1,500 miles per hour and altitudes of 60,000 feet.

The Ghost Squadron also features three Alpha Jets, a collaboration between French manufacturer Dassault and German Dornier. First deployed in 1979, these jets are renowned for their training and tactical support roles, including service with the Patrouille de France. They fly at subsonic speeds up to 1,000 kilometers per hour and can reach altitudes of 50,000 feet.
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The three Alpha Jets, built by Dassault and Dornier.
Rounding out the fleet are four L-39 Albatros aircraft designed by Aero Vodochody in the Czech Republic. This single-engine, subsonic plane, used for light combat, ground support, and training, is favoured by aerobatic teams worldwide for its agility. With nearly 3,000 units produced and utilized by over 40 countries, the L-39 is a testament to versatile aviation engineering.
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The four L-39 Albatros aircraft, built by Aero Vodochody in the Czech Republic.
Unlike traditional symmetrical aerobatic teams using identical aircraft models, the Polaris Ghost Squadron's asymmetric composition of three distinct aircraft types adds a unique aesthetic appeal to their maneuvers. This dynamic variety showcases the squadron's versatility and enhances the visual spectacle of their performances.

In summary, the Polaris Ghost Squadron is not just an aerobatic marvel but a crucial training platform for future astronauts. Through their breathtaking displays, they inspire the next generation and provide essential preparation for the demands of space travel, all while supporting charitable causes.
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MIG-29 cockpit
About the Polaris Program: Pioneering Human Spaceflight and Philanthropy

The Polaris program is a groundbreaking initiative aimed at rapidly advancing human spaceflight capabilities while raising funds and awareness for important causes on Earth. Named after the North Star, Polaris, which has guided explorers for centuries, the program seeks to lay the foundation for future human exploration to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.
Mission Overview

The Polaris program plans to execute three human spaceflight missions, each designed to showcase new technologies, conduct extensive research, and culminate in the first crewed flight of SpaceX's Starship. These missions aim to improve our understanding of human adaptation, living, and working in space, and ultimately support long-duration spaceflights.

Polaris Dawn is the inaugural mission, set to launch no earlier than mid-2024. Operated by SpaceX for Jared Isaacman, CEO of Shift4 Payments, this mission will use a Crew Dragon capsule to carry a crew of private citizens into Earth orbit for up to five days. Key objectives include reaching a record-breaking high Earth orbit of 1,400 km, conducting 38 science experiments, and testing SpaceX's EVA (extravehicular activity) spacesuits during the first commercial spacewalk.
Technological and Scientific Milestones

Mission I - Polaris Dawn

Crew Dragon Capsule: Modified for vacuum exposure to support spacewalks.

EVA Spacesuits: Designed by SpaceX for the first commercial extravehicular activity.

Research: 38 projects from 23 partner institutions focusing on human health in space and on Earth.

Starlink Laser Communications: First in-space test of this technology for future lunar and Martian missions.
Mission II

Continued Innovation: Building on the successes of Polaris Dawn, this mission will further enhance human spaceflight capabilities, space communications, and scientific research.
Mission II

Continued Innovation: Building on the successes of Polaris Dawn, this mission will further enhance human spaceflight capabilities, space communications, and scientific research.
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All the squadron pilots with the billionaire philanthropist, professional pilot, and astronaut Jared Isaacman in the centre position.
Challenges and Delays

Originally slated for late 2022, the Polaris program has faced delays due to hardware preparation issues, particularly with EVA spacesuit designs and technical problems with Starlink's inter-satellite laser communications. Despite these setbacks, the program remains on track for a 2024 launch.

Vision for the Future

The Polaris program aims to achieve significant advancements in human space exploration, leveraging technological innovation and scientific research. By building on the success of Inspiration4, Polaris Dawn, and future missions, the program seeks to expand our understanding of human adaptation in space while supporting critical philanthropic causes on Earth.