In December 2021, NASA reported the extension of the International Space Station to 2030, mentioning that in order to maintain a safe and sustainable flight cadence throughout the rest of the space station’s planned operations there is a need for additional crew rotation missions.
The extra crew flights will allow NASA to hold an uninterrupted U.S. capability for human access to the space station.
Therefore, NASA plans to issue a sole source modification to SpaceX to obtain five additional crewed flights to the International Space Station as part of its Commercial Crew Transportation Capabilities contract.
The company expects a possible need to utilize additional SpaceX flights as early as 2026. Currently, SpaceX is NASA’s only certified commercial crew transportation provider and will fly its sixth rotational mission for NASA in the spring of 2023.
However, the current sole-source modification does not prevent NASA from pursuing other contract modifications in the future for potential transportation services if needed.
“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. “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.”