SpaceX is on track to provide flights to the ISS until the station dies

The American space agency intends to carry out 5 additional flights with SpaceX, to transport humans to the ISS. The lead taken by the company over its rival Boeing is strengthening.

2 years ago, SpaceX sent 2 people into space. Since then, there have been 24 others. And it does not seem about to stop: the American space agency wishes to grant 5 more flights to the company, to send crews aboard the International Space Station (ISS), we learn in a publication from the 1st June 2022.

The last flights before the end of the ISS in 2030?

Last March, NASA had already extended the duration of its contract with SpaceX, which was to transport astronauts to the ISS at least until 2028. The new press release does not mention a more distant date, but as underlined Ars Technica, the 5 flights that NASA plans to entrust in addition to SpaceX could well be quite important: they would be the last that the space agency needs, to continue to occupy the ISS until the end. It is currently planned to cease activities in this space laboratory by 2030, then to deorbit the International Space Station in January 2031.

This announcement also underlines a growing imbalance between SpaceX and Boeing, NASA’s other commercial partner for sending humans aboard the station. The new agreement suggests that SpaceX would carry out 14 crew transport missions to the ISS, while Boeing would carry out only 6 in total, until the end of life of the space station.

Boeing’s Starliner capsule, unmanned, approaching the ISS. // Source: Flickr/CC/NASA Johnson (cropped photo)

Boeing lags behind SpaceX

The gap is already widened between the two companies. SpaceX is no longer on its test flight to send humans to the station: the company’s last manned mission, Crew-4, took off on April 27. Boeing, for its part, has just completed its second unmanned test flight, after an attempt which ended in failure in the summer of 2021. The company no longer had the right to make mistakes. with its Starliner capsule, especially in the tense international context with the war in Ukraine, which also has repercussions in the space sector.

NASA gives little indication of the 5 additional flights it should add to its contract with SpaceX. It is simply specified that these additional flights would take place from 2026.

SpaceX’s crew transport system is the only one currently certified to maintain crew flights to the space station “Writes NASA in its press release. For now, SpaceX remains the only supplier authorized by NASA to transport astronauts to the station in the coming years.

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