With Boeing’s Starliner taking a few years longer than planned to get off the ground, NASA intends to purchase three more Crew Dragon flights to the ISS from SpaceX.
In a blog post Friday, NASA announced its intent to acquire the flights, stating “to maintain an uninterrupted U.S. capability for human access to the space station.” A nice way of saying that Starliner is taking too long so it needs more SpaceX flights.
It’s critical we begin to secure additional flights to the space station now so we are ready as these missions are needed to maintain a U.S. presence on station. Our U.S. human launch capability is essential to our continued safe operations in orbit and to building our low-Earth orbit economy.Kathy Lueders, associate administrator, NASA’s Space Operations Mission Directorate
SpaceX has already launched three operational missions to the International Space Station for NASA. The company has also sent the demo flight with Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the station and launched the Inspiration4 orbital mission. Most notably, next May will mark one decade of SpaceX launching Dragon spacecrafts to the ISS. This easily makes SpaceX one of NASA’s most experienced providers of crew and cargo to orbit.
These additions will bring SpaceX Commerical Crew Missions up to Crew-9. Crew-3 is currently on the station with Crew-4 and Crew-5 set to launch in spring and fall of next year.
Originally the Commerical Crew Program was supposed to feature alternating launches from SpaceX and Boeing. However, Boeing has continually experienced problems with its Starliner capsule, first during ascent on its OFT-1 mission and then a valve issue on its OFT-2 launch attempt. As a result, the next OFT-2 launch attempt is still TBD as Boeing works to find a solution for the valve issue.