The International Space Station will get five more crewed flights from the same company.
The only American system currently carrying NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station is being modified. The value of the modified contract was not disclosed in the agency's post.
The five-flight purchase adds on to a $3.5 billion contract awarded to SpaceX in February for three additional astronauts with its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule. At the time, NASA said it might order more flights from the company.
Right now, Crew-4 is in space, Crew-5 should launch in September, and Crew 6 should launch in the spring of23. If five flights continue in sequence after Crew-9, the contract modification will bring the company through Crew 14.
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NASA indicated that Boeing's Starliner capsule will likely be ready soon, making it the only company that can send astronauts to space.
During a test flight to the International Space Station, Starliners met its major objectives.
The recent success of Boeing's uncrewed flight test is helping to solidify NASA's long-term goals. We need to complete Starliner's development without excessive schedule pressure while working to position both Boeing and SpaceX for sustainable operations in the years to come.
The space station will be operational through the end of the year. The other partners in the program, including Russia, would have to approve an extension of the lab's lifespan. Many of the nation's other space partnerships have fallen apart because of Russia's invasion of Ukrainian. Russia's activities in the International Space Station are unaffected.
The current space station rotation rate requires crewed spaceships from all nations to fly up and down about four times a year. The whole load is not carried by NASA. NASA still uses Russia's Soyuz spaceship to bring back astronauts, for example, on March 30th, when Mark Vande Hei came back to Earth.
NASA awarded contracts to both Boeing and SpaceX in the last year for the purpose of transporting astronauts.
NASA said on Wednesday that it may need to use more flights by the end of the century. The agency officials said that ordering more Dragon missions after Starliner is ready provides important redundancy.
NASA's goal is to maintain safe space station operations and allow each company to work through any unforeseen issues that could arise as private industry builds operational experience with these new systems
NASA said that the most recent modification to the contract doesn't preclude the agency from making more changes later.
In addition to providing services to NASA, Dragon has flown private crewed missions to the space station in the past.
The Polaris Program is a new venture backed by a billionaire that will see Inspiration4'sJared Isaacman return to space several times. The Dragon system is expected to be involved in Polaris flights.
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