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NASA awarded each company six crewed missions, but ordered three more from SpaceX in early 2022 due to Boeing’s technical problems.
SpaceX will launch five more astronaut missions to the International Space Station for NASA by the end of the decade under a $1.4 billion contract order, the US space agency said Wednesday. This brings the company’s total number of contracted missions for its Crew Dragon astronaut capsule to 14.
The latest boost to SpaceX’s contract with NASA is part of the agency’s push to ensure steady astronaut flights to the space station as Boeing, the other company with a similar crew contract, has struggled to complete development of its Starliner space capsule.
The award “allows NASA to maintain a continuous US capability for human access to the space station through 2030 with two unique commercial partners from the crew industry,” the agency said in a statement.
SpaceX and Boeing won multibillion-dollar NASA contracts in 2014 to develop, test and routinely fly space capsule systems capable of sending astronauts to and from the Space Station, the orbiting research laboratory that has housed international astronaut crews for more than two decades.
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon reusable capsule has flown five crewed missions for NASA since its crew certification in 2020, becoming the first private company to put humans into orbit and reviving NASA’s spaceflight program after the US Space Shuttle program ended in in 2011.
Plagued by software glitches and valve malfunctions, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner capsule aims to fly its first crew of astronauts next February as it struggles to pass a final test mission before NASA can certify the spacecraft for routine astronaut flights.
NASA initially awarded each company six crewed missions, but ordered three more from SpaceX in early 2022 due to Boeing’s technical difficulties.