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NASA Plans to Acquire Commercial Crew Missions

As part of its plan to expand the International Space Station until the end of the decade, NASA is starting the process of procuring more commercial crew missions, including the possibility of new recruits. On Oct. 20, NASA sent a request for information (RFI) to the industry, asking for details on their capabilities to carry people to and from the space station. The deadline for responses to the agency is November 19.

In 2014, NASA granted Boeing and SpaceX contracts for Commercial Crew Transportation Capability, or CCtCap. Those contracts included final development and certification of their commercial crew vehicles, as well as up to six “post-certification” or operational trips to the space station.

Due to ongoing problems with the construction of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner vehicle, the first post-certification mission is unlikely to take place until 2023, pushing back a second uncrewed test flight to the first half of 2022 and a crewed test flight to late 2022. However, on Oct. 31, SpaceX will launch Crew-3, its third Crew Dragon post-certification mission, and NASA is planning Crew-4 and Crew-5 flights for 2022.

During a call with reporters on Oct. 19 about the status of Starliner, NASA commercial crew programme manager Steve Stich said the agency was beginning to consider plans for acquiring additional commercial crew flights, given that SpaceX’s CCtCap contract was coming to an end and the agency’s desire to operate the station until the end of the decade.

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