NASA has finalized an agreement with SpaceX to purchase five more missions to transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station, further cementing the space company’s position as a major service provider 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 transport 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 transport up to four astronauts, the Falcon 9 rocket for launch and all other return and recovery operations. NASA announced its intention to order additional missions in June.
The CCtCap program is under the umbrella of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, a series of public-private partnerships designed to develop launch capabilities locally. NASA awarded the initial $2.6 billion contract to SpaceX in 2014. The space agency also awarded a CCtCap contract to Boeing for up to $4.2 billion for six flights using its Starliner capsule, although that capsule is affected by technical problems and no successful crewed mission has yet been completed. Late last week, Boeing and NASA said they are targeting early 2023 for the Starliner’s first crewed flight.
The ultimate goal is to use both Crew Dragon and Starliner for astronaut transportation services. Prior to CCtCap, NASA used the Russian Soyuz capsule for astronaut transportation services. A 2019 Report from NASA’s Office of the Inspector General found that the space agency spent an average of $79.7 million per site since 2017.
NASA said in a notice published in June that it is seeking additional flights, in part because of “technical and scheduling challenges facing Boeing” and “NASA’s projections of when alternative crew transportation systems will be available.”
The space agency continued to stress the importance of having redundant astronaut transport capabilities to ensure the ISS is continuously manned through the station’s end of life in 2030.
The space agency also extended SpaceX’s CCtCap contract in February.