As expected, NASA has ordered five more astronaut missions from SpaceX in a new $1.44 billion contract, raising the total number of Crew Dragon launches to 14. It's designed to ensure a steady flow of crew members to the International Space Station (ISS), as SpaceX rival Boeing struggles to get its own Starliner crew system launch-ready.
The latest award "allows NASA to maintain an uninterrupted U.S. capability for human access to the space station until 2030, with two unique commercial crew industry partners," the space agency said in a press release. It brings the total Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contract with SpaceX to $4.93 billion.
SpaceX was certified for crew transportation in November 2020, launching its latest Crew-4 mission on April 27, 2022. Earlier this year, NASA announced that it would order three additional missions for $900 million, upping its original $2.6 billion contract to $3.49 billion.
All of this is to the detriment of Boeing, which has suffered numerous delays with its Starliner capsule that's compatible with ULA's Atlas V and other rockets. Following a long delay due to valve issues, the latest unmanned test flight launched on May 19th this year, with the capsule returning to Earth six days later. The first crewed flight was originally planned for 2017, but still hasn't launched. Boeing and NASA are now targeting early 2023 for the first mission carrying astronauts.