NASA announces 5 more astronaut missions from SpaceX in $1.4 bln deal

The United States space agency announced on Wednesday that SpaceX will launch five more astronaut missions to the International Space Station for NASA at the end of the decade as part of a $1.4 billion contract order, bringing the company’s total number of contracted missions for its Crew Dragon astronaut capsule to 14.

As Boeing (BA.N), the other business with a comparable crew transportation contract, has failed to finish development of its Starliner space capsule, NASA is now increasing SpaceX’s NASA contract in an effort to maintain a regular flow of astronaut flights to the space station.

According to a statement from NASA, the contract “allows NASA to preserve an uninterrupted U.S. capability for human access to the space station through 2030, with two unique commercial crew industry partners.”

In order to develop, test, and regularly fly space capsule systems that can transport astronauts to and from the space station, an orbital research facility that has been home to international crews of astronauts for more than 20 years, SpaceX and Boeing each received multibillion dollar NASA contracts in 2014.

Since its crew certification in 2020, when it became the first private firm to launch people into orbit and resurrected NASA’s human spaceflight programme after the U.S. shuttle programme ended in 2011, SpaceX’s reusable Crew Dragon spacecraft has flown five crewed missions for the agency.

Before NASA can approve the spacecraft for regular astronaut flights, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner capsule, which has been plagued by software bugs and valve malfunctions, plans to launch its first crew of astronauts in February of next year.

NASA initially gave each company six crew trips, but in early 2022, in response to Boeing’s technical difficulties, it ordered three more from SpaceX.

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