NASA recently extended its existing contract with SpaceX to include additional missions to send astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).
SpaceX already has six crewed flights to the ISS using its Crew Dragon system planned as part of its contract with NASA. Now up to three more flights have been added to the contract. NASA solicited other companies before extending SpaceX's contract, but none met NASA's requirements.
"SpaceX's crew transportation system is the only one certified to meet NASA's safety requirements to transport crew to the space station, and to maintain the agency's obligation to its international partners in the needed timeframe," said NASA in a statement on December 3rd.
Previously, NASA sent astronauts aboard its space shuttle but retired it in 2011 after 30 years of service. Since then, NASA has helped private companies to develop their solutions, eventually awarding SpaceX and Boeing contracts in 2014 as part of its Commercial Crew Transportation Capabilities (CCtCap) contract.
NASA astronauts were shuttled to the ISS aboard Russian Soyuz capsules while SpaceX and Boeing developed their spacecraft to carry astronauts. In 2020, SpaceX successfully sent astronauts to the ISS aboard its Crew Dragon, but Boeing has yet to operationalize its Starliner spacecraft. With SpaceX continuing to take astronauts to the ISS, NASA can work with Boeing to finalize Starliner, ultimately planning to alternate with Crew Dragon for crewed flights to the ISS once complete.
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