Boeing’s Starliner crew capsule, already considerably delayed, hit a significant snag earlier this year. This, unfortunately, has left NASA with a bit of a problem. Starliner was supposed to take on the role of ferrying astronauts to the International Space Station following a successful orbital test.
Which has turned into a bit of a windfall for SpaceX. See, SpaceX and Boeing are supposed to alternate duties when it comes to heading to space. NASA likes redundancy. But only one of those two are currently running operations.
NASA to see you, Elon
The American space agency has announced that it’s purchasing three additional commercial crew missions from SpaceX while Starliner is sidelined. SpaceX was initially awarded six post-certification missions (PCMs), to a value of $2.6 billion, but those are expected to be used up by 2023.
“Due to technical issues and the resulting delays experienced by Boeing, it is expected that SpaceX will launch its last PCM in March 2023,” said NASA in its procurement notice. “Awarding up to three additional PCMs to SpaceX will enable NASA to have redundant and back-up capabilities for each PCM.”
Boeing’s space hardware isn’t being chucked in the bin. NASA’s perfectly happy to wait for Starliner to get its valves together. The awarding of additional launches to SpaceX is to, “maintain a U.S. presence on station”, according to NASA’s Kathy Lueders.
Phil McAlister, NASA’s director of commercial spaceflight, added, “NASA and Boeing will provide additional updates on the status of Starliner’s next mission as we work through the investigation and verification efforts to determine root cause and effective vehicle remediation.”