The US space agency said that SpaceX would launch five additional astronaut missions to the International Space Station (ISS) for NASA at the end of the decade under a $1.4 billion contract order.
The new contract will take SpaceX’s total contracted missions for the Crew Dragon space capsule to 14.
The newest boost to SpaceX’s NASA contract is part of the NASA’s effort to ensure a stable run of astronaut flights to the space station as Boeing, the other firm with a comparable crew transportation contract, has struggled to complete the development of its Starliner space capsule.
SpaceX and Boeing each won multibillion-dollar NASA contracts in 2014 to develop, test, and routinely fly space capsules capable of sending astronauts to and from the space station. This orbital research lab has housed international crews of astronauts for over two decades.
SpaceX’s reusable Crew Dragon capsule had flown five crewed missions for NASA since it was crew-certified in 2020 when it became the first private firm to launch humans into orbit and revived NASA’s human spaceflight program after the US shuttle program retired in 2011.
Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner capsule, beset by software glitches and valve malfunctions, aims to fly its first crew of astronauts in February next year, looking to pass the final test mission before NASA can certify the spacecraft for routine astronaut flights.