Elon Musk’s SpaceX has landed another $1.4 billion contract to send astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) in the coming years.
The announcement means SpaceX will spearhead five more astronaut missions under the space agency’s commercial crew program — bringing the space company to a total of 14 missions to be awarded by NASA worth nearly $5 billion.
Under the existing NASA contract, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and reusable Falcon 9 rocket will carry cargo and up to four astronauts to the ISS.
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Elon Musk’s SpaceX has landed another $1.4 billion contract to send astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station in the coming years
The award brings the space company to a total of 14 NASA-awarded missions worth nearly $5 billion. Above: NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 mission, from left JAXA’s Koichi Wakata, Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina, and NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada
Currently, the company has an interest in Crew-4, which was launched in April.
This mission included Americans Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines and Jessica Watkins – the first black woman to make a long-duration space flight – as well as Italian Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency – and will conduct scientific experiments for five months.
The new partnership means SpaceX will provide space transportation for Crew 10, Crew 11, Crew 12, Crew 13 and Crew 14 flights to the ISS.
It “also allows NASA to maintain an uninterrupted US capability for human access to the space station through 2030,” the agency said in a statement.
The new partnership means SpaceX will provide space transportation for Crew 10, Crew 11, Crew 12, Crew 13 and Crew 14 flights to the ISS. Above: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying South Korea’s first lunar orbiter stands upright on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida
In 2014, NASA awarded contracts to Boeing and SpaceX as part of its commercial crew program. Boeing stock is worth $4.2 billion
In 2014, NASA awarded contracts to Boeing and SpaceX as part of its commercial crew program. Boeing stock is worth $4.2 billion.
However, Boeing has yet to launch its Starline spacecraft.
Eric Berger, senior space editor at Ars Technica, pointed out on Twitter that NASA benefits far more from its partnership with SpaceX than Boeing does per launch.
“Here’s what’s so wild about NASA’s purchase of commercial crew seats. For crew development and operations, NASA pays Boeing a total of about $5.1 billion for six crew flights; and it will pay SpaceX a total of $4.9 billion for 14 flights,” Berger wrote.
Berger added, “That’s price gouging by Boeing” isn’t a good attitude because Boeing is likely to lose money even at that price. The more accurate take is probably this: It’s damn hard to compete with SpaceX on price and schedule.
The Seattle-based aerospace company is now targeting February 2023 for its first Starliner mission with astronauts on board to the ISS – as it struggles with a costly and significantly delayed schedule.
The first attempt to put Starliner on an orbital test run in late 2019 was aborted after software problems threw the craft off course — and that was followed by two years of troubleshooting, reports CNN.
SpaceX has been sending astronauts to the ISS since May 2020. Before partnering with SpaceX, NASA depended on paying Russia to use its Soyuz rockets to carry people to the ISS.
“Think of how the Cape has changed, think of all those abandoned launch pads in the Cape and how they’re coming back to life,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson previously said.
Crew-4 was to conduct hundreds of scientific experiments, including ongoing research into growing soilless crops in space.
Another attempt involves the development of an artificial human retina that uses the microgravity environment of the ISS to deposit thin protein films layer by layer.
The technology “could eventually be used to replace damaged photoreceptor cells in the eyes, potentially restoring meaningful vision to millions of people suffering from retinal degenerative disease,” said NASA scientist Heidi Parris.
NASA plans to continue using the ISS until the end of its life cycle in 2030 and then to work with private entities.
Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin got the green light and $130 million for its Orbital Reef Station in December.
Two other companies, Northrop Grumman and Nanoracks, received even larger sums for the construction of stations in low earth orbit.
THE SPACEX CREW DRAGON CAPSULE MEASURES 20 FEET AND CAN CARRY 7 ASTRONAUTS AT A TIME
March 2 test, first launch by US astronauts from US soil in eight years, will inform system design and operations (artist’s rendering)
The capsule is approximately 20 feet high and 12 feet in diameter and can carry up to 7 astronauts at a time.
The Crew Dragon features an advanced emergency exit system (tested earlier this year) to quickly get astronauts to safety should something go wrong, while being subject to roughly the same G-forces as a Disneyland ride.
It also features an Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) that provides a comfortable and safe environment for crew members.
Crew Dragon’s displays provide real-time information on the state of the spacecraft’s capabilities, showing everything from Dragon’s position in space to potential targets and the onboard environment.
These CRS-2 Dragon missions will use “engine landings” where the pod uses its SuperDraco engines to land on a landing pad instead of splashing in the ocean.
This will give NASA faster access to the cargo brought back by these spacecraft and also gain experience for drifting landings of manned Dragon spacecraft.