NASA to award SpaceX three more commercial crew flights

WASHINGTON — NASA introduced Dec. 3 its intent to buy three extra industrial crew missions from SpaceX as a hedge towards additional delays within the certification of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner.

NASA issued a contract notification asserting its plans to challenge a sole-source award to SpaceX for 3 missions. These missions could be along with the six “post-certification missions,” or PCMs, that SpaceX received as a part of its $2.6 billion Industrial Crew Transportation Functionality (CCtCap) contract in 2014. The announcement didn’t state the value of these three new missions.

SpaceX launched the third of these six authentic missions, Crew-3, to the Worldwide House Station Nov. 10. It’s scheduled to launch the Crew-4 mission within the spring of 2022, more likely to be adopted by Crew-5 within the fall of 2022.

NASA initially envisioned alternating missions between SpaceX and Boeing, assuming each firms’ automobiles could be licensed across the identical time. Nonetheless, Boeing has but to fly a crewed Starliner mission, and its second uncrewed take a look at flight, OFT-2, has been delayed to a while in 2022.

“As a result of technical points and the ensuing delays skilled by Boeing, it’s anticipated that SpaceX will launch its final PCM in March 2023,” the procurement discover acknowledged. “Awarding as much as three extra PCMs to SpaceX will allow NASA to have redundant and back-up capabilities for every PCM.”

“It’s important we start to safe extra flights to the area station now so we’re prepared as these missions are wanted to keep up a U.S. presence on station,” Kathy Lueders, NASA affiliate administrator for area operations, mentioned in an announcement accompanying the contract notification.

NASA officers mentioned in October, at briefings in regards to the Crew-3 mission, that they had been within the early phases of planning industrial crew contract extensions. The company issued a request for info Oct. 20 concerning alternatives for buying extra industrial crew providers, together with choices for single or a number of seats on a industrial mission or a devoted flight.

Neither NASA nor Boeing have supplied an replace since mid-October on progress with valve corrosion issues that scrubbed an OFT-2 launch try in early August and led to an prolonged delay for that mission. In that replace, Boeing officers mentioned they had been choices to launch the mission a while within the first half of 2022, a schedule that might push again the primary post-certification mission to 2023.

“NASA and Boeing will present extra updates on the standing of Starliner’s subsequent mission as we work by way of the investigation and verification efforts to find out root trigger and efficient car remediation,” Phil McAlister, director of economic spaceflight at NASA Headquarters, mentioned within the assertion.

NASA mentioned at that October Starliner briefing that the company’s long-term plan stays to alternate between Crew Dragon and Starliner missions as soon as Starliner is licensed. “After we get into the long-term rotations, we want to see SpaceX fly annually after which Boeing fly one a 12 months as properly,” mentioned Steve Stich, supervisor of the industrial crew program at NASA.

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