NASA has signed an agreement with SpaceX to purchase five more astronaut transportation missions to and from the International Space Station, further entrenching the space company’s position as the primary provider of services for the space agency.
The new contract — for the Crew-10, Crew-11, Crew-12, Crew-13, and Crew-14 missions — is valued at $1.4 billion. It brings the total contract value for all 14 transportation missions, part of the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) program, to $4.9 billion. The funds include the use of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule to carry up to four astronauts, the Falcon 9 rocket for launch and all other return and recovery operations. NASA announced in June that it plans to order the additional missions.
The CCtCap program is under the auspices of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, a series of public-private partnerships designed to develop domestic launch capabilities. NASA awarded the original $2.6 billion contract to SpaceX in 2014. The space agency also awarded Boeing a CCtCap contract for up to $4.2 billion, for six flights on its Starliner capsule, although that capsule was plagued by technical issues. problems and yet to be completed a successful manned mission. Late last week, Boeing and NASA said they are targeting early 2023 for the first manned Starliner flight.
The ultimate goal is to use both Crew Dragon and Starliner for astronaut transport services. Prior to CCtCap, NASA used the Russian Soyuz capsule for astronaut transportation services. A report 2019 of NASA’s Office of the Inspector General found that after 2017, the space agency spent an average of $79.7 million per seat.
nasa said: in a post published in June that it was seeking additional flights, in part because of “the technical and scheduling difficulties Boeing is experiencing” and “NASA forecasts of when alternative crew transport systems will be available.”
The space agency further stressed the importance of redundant transportation options for astronauts to ensure the ISS is continuously manned until the end of the station’s life in 2030.
The space agency also extended SpaceX’s CCtCap contract in February.