NASA, SpaceX ink $1.4 billion contract for five more missions
NASA has rewarded SpaceX's exemplary services with a new contract worth $1.4 billion. The Elon Musk-owned company will launch five more astronaut missions to the International Space Station (ISS) for the space agency. The new contract will take the total number of crew missions to 14. The latest extension brings the total contract value between NASA and SpaceX to $4.9 billion.
Why does this story matter?
Since NASA shut down its space shuttle program in 2011, the space agency has been looking for a capable partner to fulfill its ISS commitments. Most assumed that it would be Boeing. However, SpaceX surprised everyone and has proven itself as a more than capable partner to NASA. The second contract extension since 2020 is a testament to the company's efficiency and consistency.
The modified contract will cover Crew-10 through Crew-14
NASA has decided to modify the existing Commercial Crew Transportation Capabilities (CCtCap) contract with SpaceX. The modification will add another five astronaut missions to the contract. The new contract will cover Crew-10 to Crew-14 spacecraft and is valued at $1.4 billion. The five missions will have approximately 20 seats. The contract extension will ensure a steady flow of spacecraft to the ISS till 2030.
The award allows uninterrupted human access to ISS: NASA
About the award of five more astronaut missions to SpaceX, NASA said that it allows the agency "to maintain an uninterrupted U.S. capability for human access to the space station until 2030, with two unique commercial crew industry partners."
Boeing hasn't been able to send a crewed mission yet
NASA's decision to modify the crew transportation contract with SpaceX comes amid the issues faced by Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. Both SpaceX and Boeing won multibillion-dollar CCtCap contracts to develop, test, and routinely fly astronauts to the ISS in 2014. However, the latter's capsule has been plagued with technical woes. The Starliner capsule is expected to fly its first crew in February 2023.
SpaceX has launched five capsules for NASA till now
NASA aims to send missions to the ISS till 2030. President Joe Biden recently extended the agency's participation in the space station by six years past 2024. At the moment, only SpaceX meets the space agency's standards. The company was first awarded six crew missions. In early 2022, NASA ordered three more amid Boeing's issues. Till now, SpaceX has launched five capsules for NASA.