Amid conflict between Russia and Ukraine, NASA extends SpaceX contract for ISS crew transport services by 3 missions

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NASA has granted SpaceX three additional missions — Crew-7, Crew-8, and Crew-9 — under its Commercial Human Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contract to transport crews to the International Space Station (ISS). This brings the agency’s total number of manned missions to the ISS to nine, including three successful operational trips over the past two years. The original $2.6 billion (about Rs.19,700 billion) contract was awarded to SpaceX in 2014 for the development of American manned launch capabilities.

The timing of the announcement is also important. While NASA made no mention of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — and the resulting breakdown in international space relations — the latest development appears to show that the space agency aims to rely on American-made rockets for the foreseeable future.

These three new missions bring SpaceX’s total CCtCap contract to $3.49 billion (around Rs. 26,409 billion), according to a NASA statement.

The explanation adds that the extension is “fixed price, indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity”. This means that the “performance period of SpaceX runs until March 31, 2028”.

Under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, CCtCap contracts were awarded to Boeing and SpaceX in 2014. Prior to human flight missions, NASA ensures that a vendor’s space transportation system meets the agency’s standards under CCtCap.

In November 2020, NASA certified SpaceX for crew transport. Your third crew rotation mission for the agency is now in orbit. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket will carry up to four astronauts and critical cargo to the ISS as part of the missions.

After the space shuttle was retired in 2011, NASA had no choice but to rely on the Russian-made Soyuz spacecraft to transport people to and from the ISS. However, as of 2020, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft has enabled NASA to deliver astronauts to the ISS from American soil, reducing the space agency’s dependence on Russia. During three operational missions and a manned test flight, SpaceX has successfully transported people to the ISS. As a result of the new deal, SpaceX can launch astronauts at least six more times.

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