Launches: NASA tags SpaceX for more crewed missions
NASA said on August 31, 2022 that it has picked SpaceX to fly five crewed missions to the International Space Station over the next six years. The $1.4-billion contract is comprehensive, leaving SpaceX to run the entire show. From NASA’s announcement:
This is a firm fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract modification for the Crew-10, Crew-11, Crew-12, Crew-13 and Crew-14 flights. The value of this modification for all five missions and related mission services is $1,436,438,446. The amount includes ground, launch, in-orbit, and return and recovery operations, cargo transportation for each mission, and a lifeboat capability while docked to the International Space Station. The period of performance runs through 2030 and brings the total CCtCap [commercial crew transportation capability] contract value with SpaceX to $4,927,306,350.
SpaceX was first picked along with Boeing to provide Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) services in 2014. And Boeing might fly its Starliner spacecraft to the ISS for the first time in early 2023.
Meanwhile, SpaceX is still working earlier contracts with NASA. On August 25, NASA said that the NASA SpaceX Crew-5 mission will fly early next month from Kennedy Space Center in Florida:
NASA and SpaceX are targeting no earlier than 12:45 p.m. EDT [15:45 UTC] Monday, October 3, for the launch of the agency’s Crew-5 mission to the International Space Station. The date adjustment allows for extra separation with spacecraft traffic coming to and from the space station.
Enter the Dragon
Significantly, the Crew-5 mission will mark the first time any SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule has carried a Russian space traveler. In this case it will be the Dragon Endurance (Dragon C210):
Crew-5 will carry two NASA astronauts, Mission Commander Nicole Mann and Pilot Josh Cassada, along with JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Koichi Wakata and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina, who will serve as mission specialists.
Also of note, the Crew-5 mission was originally delayed when the Falcon 9 carrying the Dragon Endurance struck a bridge during transport to the launch site. The vehicle was damaged slightly, according to SpaceflightNow:
NASA statement on the SpaceX Crew-5 mission that is now targeting September 29.
NASASpaceflight understands that the Falcon 9 “damage during transport” occurred when the rocket struck a bridge near Van Horn, Texas, on the way from Hawthorne to McGregor.
Full statement: pic.twitter.com/VgxJdldQQ5
— Thomas Burghardt (@TGMetsFan98) July 21, 2022
Bottom line: NASA has contracted with SpaceX to provide five crewed missions to the ISS through 2030. In addition, they’ve selected October 3, 2022, as the launch date for the next crewed mission to the ISS.