SpaceX will be able to outfit five more astronaut crews in its iconic white flight suits.
NASA has just tasked SpaceX with carrying out five additional astronaut missions to the International Space Station (ISS) under a new $1.4 billion deal, which modifies an existing agreement between the two organizations.
The deal, which will employ SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rockets, "allows NASA to maintain an uninterrupted U.S. capability for human access to the space station until 2030," NASA officials said in an update today (Aug. 31).
The pact will cover missions Crew-10 through Crew-14, representing approximately 20 spacecraft seats overall. (SpaceX's Crew-5 is expected to launch in early October, and Crew-4 is at the space station right now.)
While NASA is banking on Boeing's Starliner capsule flying people to space relatively soon, for now SpaceX is the only company certified to fly operational crewed missions for the agency.
In pictures: Amazing launch photos of SpaceX's Crew-4 mission
SpaceX also received a trio of astronaut flights from NASA in December as part of a sole-source modification to its Commercial Crew Transportation Capabilities (CCtCap) contract, which was first awarded in 2014.
"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," agency officials said at the time.
SpaceX's CCtCap deal is now worth a total of $4.9 billion, NASA officials said in today's update.
NASA plans on running astronaut missions to the ISS until at least 2030; the agency was just approved by President Joe Biden to extend its participation in the orbiting complex by six more years, past 2024.
Major space station partner Russia, however, intends to withdraw from the ISS after 2024 to build a Russian-operated space station; however, that new station likely won't be ready until at least 2028, experts say.
There is no word yet on how NASA and any remaining ISS partners would fill in operational gaps left by the Russians, like boosting the space station periodically to keep it at the proper altitude above Earth.
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Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace