NASA Awards SpaceX 5 Additional Commercial Crew Dragon Astronaut Missions to ISS

NASA Awards SpaceX 5 Additional Commercial Crew Dragon Astronaut Missions to ISS
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on top at Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida poised for liftoff on the NASA ESA SpaceX Crew-4 mission launched to the ISS on April 27, 2022. Credit: Ken Kremer/spaceupclose.com

For SpaceUpClose.com & RocketSTEM

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL –  NASA is awarding SpaceX task orders for five additional commercial Crew Dragon missions to the International Space Station (ISS) in order to maintain an uninterrupted long-term capability to fly astronauts to and from the orbiting research outpost through the end of its currently projected lifetime around 2030.

The new award marks a vote of strong confidence in SpaceX which has already launched a total of five astronaut crews to the ISS for NASA over the past two years – in addition to flying two additional all private astronaut missions to low Earth orbit and the ISS.

NASA ESA Crew 4 astronaut team of Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines, Jessica Watkins, and Samantha Cristoforetti during walkout and drive to launch pad hours before planned launch on SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on top at Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 27, 2022. Credit: Ken Kremer/spaceupclose.com

This brings the total number of Crew Dragon operational flights to the ISS awarded by NASA to SpaceX to 14 and is being executed via “a sole source modification” as part of its Commercial Crew Transportation Capabilities (CCtCap) contract.

Since the Dec 2021 announcement that ISS operations were extended to 2030, NASA needs to contract more astronaut “crew rotation missions to sustain a safe and sustainable flight cadence throughout the remainder of the space station’s planned operations,” NASA said on June 3.

The SpaceX Dragon Freedom capsule with NASA ESA Crew-4 astronauts is seen after docking to the International Space Station while the station was orbiting 261 statute miles above the Pacific Ocean on April 27, 2022. Credit: NASA

Furthermore, this action builds on the recent purchase of three extra Crew Dragon missions already announced by NASA in February this year – for Crew-6, Crew-7 and Crew-8.

It also comes on top of the original NASA order for six operational post certification SpaceX Crew Dragon rotation flights

“NASA intends to issue a sole source modification to SpaceX to acquire five additional crewed flights to the International Space Station as part of its Commercial Crew Transportation Capabilities (CCtCap) contract,” the agency announced via a blog post on June 3.

Notably the NASA announcement does not include any additional flights awarded to Boeing for their long delayed Starliner crew capsule – NASA’s other commercial crew provider.

Boeing finally achieved success last month with the recently completed uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) that launched and landed on its second attempt.

UpClose Starliner: Boeing Starliner spacecraft and United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket stand vertical at Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida prior to launch on the Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) to the International Space Station on May 19, 2022 and docking on May 20 serving as an end-to-end test of the system’s capabilities. Credit: Ken Kremer/spaceupclose.com

OFT-2 paves the way for a crew flight test with NASA astronauts perhaps by years end or early 2023 – assuming all the very detailed and thorough hardware and software reviews prove positive.

United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft launches from Space Launch Complex 41, Thursday, May 19, 2022, at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) is Starliner’s second uncrewed flight test and will dock to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. OFT-2 launched at 6:54 p.m. ET, and will serve as an end-to-end test of the system’s capabilities. Credit: Ken Kremer/spaceupclose.com

NASA currently plans to fly astronauts on each provider once per year – alternating between SpaceX and Boeing

Since NASA desires to retain 2 crew capable spacecraft in order to maintain ‘dissimilar redundancy’ there may be no need to award additional Starliner missions.

“Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test-2 went very well and we hope to be able to certify the Starliner system in the near future. However, we will need additional missions from SpaceX to implement our strategy of having each commercial provider flying alternating missions once per year,” said Phil McAllister, director, commercial space at NASA, in the NASA statement.

“Our goal has always been to have multiple providers for crewed transportation to the space station. SpaceX has been reliably flying two NASA crewed missions per year, and now we must backfill those flights to help safely meet the agency’s long-term needs.”

 

At this time the NASA ESA Crew-4 astronaut quartet are serving aboard the ISS as part of Expedition 67 during a half year crew rotation mission after launching aboard the new Crew Dragon Freedom on April 27.

Crew-4 Streaks to Orbit with VAB in Fisheye Streak! Spectacular soar to orbit after blastoff of NASA ESA Crew-4 science mission on SpaceX Falcon 9 with NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines, Jessica Watkins, and ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center pad 39A at 3:52 a.m. ET on April 27, 2022 on 4x flown F9 and brand new SpaceX Crew Dragon Freedom bound for International Space Station into clear cloud free skies. F9 rocket arcs over pad 39B (center) where NASA Artemis 1 SLS Moon rocket just rolled off pad back to VAB day before. This single long duration image is bracketed by VAB (l) and US/Crew 4 flags (r) with ghostly media colleagues left of center & 3 masts pad 39B (c). Credit: Ken Kremer/spaceupclose.com

Crew-4 will be relieved by SpaceX Crew-5 with a launch targeting September 2022.

Crew-6 will launch in Spring 2023.

Stunning overnight blastoff of SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft launched on NASA ESA Crew-4 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines, Jessica Watkins, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti onboard, from Launch Complex 39A at 3:52 a.m. ET Wednesday, April 27, 2022, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer/spaceupclose.com

NASA’s plans for Boeing Starliner currently involve 1 mission per year

At that rate the 6th operational flight would launch around 2028 on a ULA Atlas V.

United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft launches from Space Launch Complex 41, Thursday, May 19, 2022, at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) is Starliner’s second uncrewed flight test and will dock to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. OFT-2 launched at 6:54 p.m. ET, and will serve as an end-to-end test of the system’s capabilities. Credit: Ken Kremer/spaceupclose.com

Thus under that scenario its possible no additional Starliner flight would be needed

At that point its quite possible that SpaceX would resume launching two Crew Dragon flight to the ISS for NASA for the remaining approx. 2 year ISS lifetime

Boeing however could launch private missions either to the ISS on on theor commercial space station.

However Boeing would have to foot the bill to certify the ULA Vulcan Centaur for human missions.

ULA currently has no plans to do that and NASA is not pushing them to certify- as official from NASA and ULA told me at a KSC media briefing in May during the OFT-2 mission.

Boeing Starliner spacecraft and United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket stand vertical at Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida prior to launch on the Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) to the International Space Station on May 19, 2022 and docking on May 20 serving as an end-to-end test of the system’s capabilities. Credit: Ken Kremer/spaceupclose.com

 

 

Watch Ken’s commentary about NASA SLS WDR demo test, NASA Crew-3, Crew 4, Starliner and SpaceX AX-1 missions and SpaceX missions including Transproter-5 and Starlink.

May 25/26: WFTV ABC Orlando featured my commentary about the successful ISS undocking and touchdown of Starliner on OFT-2 test flight

May 19/20:  WFTV ABC Orlando and Fox 35 Orlando featured my prelaunch and post launch commentary about the critical nature of the Boeing Starliner OFT-2 mission for NASA

https://www.wftv.com/news/local/successful-boeing-starliner-launch-iss-could-pave-way-additional-astronaut-transportation/AZ5D54V5BFH3DAZHDOVG3BJOXY/

https://www.fox35orlando.com/news/ula-to-launch-boeings-starliner-spacecraft-from-florida-on-thursday

Dr. Ken Kremer of Space UpClose interviewed on WFTV ABC News Orlando about Starliner OFT-2

 

May 11: WFTV ABC Orlando News featured my commentary & analysis about Boeing Starliner crew capsule targeting launch May 19 for long delayed OFT2 uncrewed test flight for NASA after completing FRR this afternoon. It must dock at ISS to be considered successful to enable follow-on NASA astronaut flights maybe by late 2022

https://www.wftv.com/news/local/nasa-boeing-teams-provide-update-high-stakes-starliner-flight-test/66HXSRSMNZCIPECB732WGRSVN4/

 

 

Apr 29: WKMG CBS 6 with my commentary about the record setting Falcon 9 turnaround of 21 days since the Axiom-1 launch

Apr 22: Fox 35 Orlando features my analysis of the busy week ahead in space with weather delayed Earth return of AX-1 crew this weekend, launch of 4 NASA/ESA Crew-4 astronauts on SpaceX Crew Dragon NET Apr 26 & rollback of NASA SLS to VAB for repairs

https://www.fox35orlando.com/video/1060937

 

Apr 20:  WFTV ABC News Orlando features my commentary about the SpaceX static fire and impact of weather induced delays to departure of Ax-1 and launch of Crew-4.

https://www.wftv.com/news/local/unfavorable-weather-delays-axiom-1-splashdown/JT7VT5AMLZHU7NHAHTAR2265PA/

Apr 15/16 & Apr 12/13:  WFTV ABC News Orlando and WKMG CBS 6 Orlando featured my comments about NASA SLS WDR wet dress rehearsal countdown and fueling demo test and human launches to ISS:

https://www.wftv.com/news/video-small-valve-forcing-nasa-modify-critical-test-artemis-i/83355ff1-ce09-4b83-bbf0-23446b95abf7/

https://www.clickorlando.com/news/local/2022/04/12/nasa-resumes-final-test-before-launch-of-sls-moon-rocket/

Apr 6: WFTV ABC 9 Orlando featured my comments about 1st fully private astronaut launch to ISS by SpaceX on AX-1 mission:https://www.wftv.com/news/local/brevard-county/first-all-private-astronaut-mission-iss-set-liftoff-kennedy-space-center-this-week/FYE5QAT735BA7G42O6IVCJGB4Q/

Apr 4 & 5: WFTV ABC News Orlando and Fox 35 Orlando featured my comments about NASA SLS WDR wet dress rehearsal countdown and fueling demo test and human launches to ISS

https://www.wftv.com/news/local/nasa-artemis-mission-hold-testing-delayed-second-time/L637Y3454VDJPBZRH4RZMM2XRQ/

https://www.fox35orlando.com/news/nasa-resumes-artemis-i-wet-dress-rehearsal-countdown

 

Watch Ken’s continuing reports about Artemis, SLS, Orion and NASA missions, SpaceX Crew and Cargo Dragons, SpaceX Axiom-1, JWST, IXPE, DART, Lucy Asteroid mission, GOES, SpaceX Starlink, Commercial Crew and Starliner and Crew Dragon, Blue Origin and Space Tourism, and onsite for live reporting of upcoming and recent SpaceX and ULA launches including Crew 1 & 2 & 3 & 4, ISS, Solar Orbiter, Mars 2020 Perseverance and Curiosity rovers, NRO spysats and national security missions and more at the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com –www.spaceupclose.com – twitter @ken_kremer – email: ken at kenkremer.com

Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics.
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Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events

Please consider supporting Ken’s work by purchasing his photos and/or donating at Patreon

https://www.patreon.com/kenkremer

 

Boeing Starliner spacecraft and United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket roll out from the Vertical Integration Facility on May 18, 2022 to Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Launch targeting at 6:54 p.m. on May 19, 2022. Credit: Jean Wright/spaceupclose.com
Stunning overnight blastoff of SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft launched on NASA ESA Crew-4 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines, Jessica Watkins, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti onboard, from Launch Complex 39A at 3:52 a.m. ET Wednesday, April 27, 2022, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer/spaceupclose.com

 

Boeing’s Starliner crew ship after docking to the International Space Station’s forward port on the Harmony module at 8:28 p.m. EDT on May 20, 2022 after launch on ULA Atlas V on the OFT-2 uncrewed test flight. Credit: NASA/ESA/Samantha Cristoforetti

 

Boeing Starliner spacecraft and United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket roll out from the Vertical Integration Facility on May 18, 2022 to Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Launch targeting at 6:54 p.m. on May 19, 2022. Credit: Ken Kremer/spaceupclose.com

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Ken Kremer

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news. Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics. Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events.

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