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NASA orders $1.4 billion from SpaceX

NASA announced on 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.

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[EN VIDÉO] Thomas Pesquet shows us around CrewDragon
Thomas Pesquet takes us on a tour of the Crew Dragon capsule which allowed crew and cargo to travel to the ISS.

In order to maintain the permanent presence of American astronauts on board theISS, NASA called on SpaceX and Boeing to “shuttle” between the ground and the station. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, derived from the Dragon freighter, has already performed several flights for the agency. It is also on board the Crew Dragon that the European astronauts came Thomas PésquetMatthias Maurer, and Samantha Cristoforetti who is still aboard the ISS today.

Compensating for Starliner delays

The order for these five additional flights follows the statement of intent of the agency published last June. In total, SpaceX will carry out 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 the many delays accused by Boeing with the Starliner ship.

A typical crew rotation on board the ISS lasts six months. NASA therefore needs two flights a year. If the second attempt of Boeing’s OFT test flight (without passenger) went as planned, there is still the manned test flight to do. NASA said it wanted to take its time certifying the Starliner, which had failed its first test flight in December 2019. The Starliner’s first operational flight is now scheduled to take place at thefall 2023, following the Crew 6 flight served by SpaceX.

Long live the ISS!

NASA intends to be able to operate the ISS until 2030 at the earliest, before transferring operations to a future space station private American. The agency is slowly starting to prepare for a possible departure of the Russian space agency of the partnership that seals the operations of the ISS. On the other hand, NASA gives a first green light to the project of Orbital Reef space stationco-ported 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 be provided, once again, by SpaceX’s Crew Dragon.

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