NASA announced Wednesday the order of five new Crew Dragon flights for its astronauts. The contract is for a total of $1.4 billion, or approximately $71 million per seat. With Boeing’s Starliner flights, all rotations should be covered until 2030.
To maintain the permanent presence of American astronauts on board theISSISS, NASA encouraged SpaceX and Boeing to “shuttle” between Earth and the station. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, derived from the Dragon cargo ship, has already performed several flights for the agency. It is also on board the Crew Dragon that the European astronauts came Thomas PesquetThomas PesquetMatthias Maurer and Samantha Cristoforetti, who are still aboard the ISS today.
Compensates for Starliner delays
The order for these five additional flights follows the agency’s letter of intent announced last June. In total, SpaceX will perform 14 flights for NASA rotations to the ISS. NASA specifies that this additional order will ensure long-term access to the station and that it compensates for the many delays that Boeing is experiencing with the Starliner spacecraft.
A typical crew rotation on board the ISS lasts six months. NASA therefore needs two flights per year. If the second attempt at Boeing’s OFT test flight (without passengers) went as planned, there is still the manned test flight to go. NASA said it would take time to certify the Starliner, which had failed its first test flight in December 2019. The Starliner’s first operational flight is now scheduled to take place onfallfall 2023, after the Crew 6 flight operated by SpaceX.
Long live the ISS!
NASA intends to be able to operate the ISS until 2030, before transferring operations to a future date space stationspace station private American. The agency is slowly beginning to prepare for a possible departure of the Russian space agency from the partnership that seals the operation of the ISS. On the other hand, NASA gives a first green light to the Orbital Reef space station project, led by Sierra Space and Blue Origin.
Finally, NASA has also given its agreement for a new tourist mission of Axiom Space, following the success of the Axiom-1 mission. The flight will again be provided by SpaceX’s Crew Dragon.