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Space Taxi: NASA Awards SpaceX And Boeing To Send Astronauts To ISS; Number Of Trips Increases

First Posted: Jan 06, 2017 04:00 AM EST
Expedition 46 On International Space Station
NASA booked a couple of trips to the ISS through SpaceX and Boeing.
(Photo : Tim Peake/ESA/NASA/Getty Images)

SpaceX is back. NASA has booked more flights to send the astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). The agency will be using the so-called space taxi built by SpaceX and Boeing.

NASA announced last Tuesday that the new orders award four crew rotation flights to the ISS each to SpaceX and Boeing as part of the space agency's Commercial Crew Program. The award has an increase in the total number of flights from each contractor to six, according to NASA officials.

The director of NASA's Commercial Spaceflight Development Division, Phil McAlister, said that, "Awarding these missions now will provide greater stability for the future space station crew rotation schedule, as well as reduce schedule and financial uncertainty for our providers. The ability to turn on missions as needed to meet the needs of the space station program is an important aspect of the Commercial Crew Program."

The missions will be approved to fly after NASA hands in the certification. At that time, the payments are not yet included.

The good news for the two private space agencies comes as they are currently preparing for their first crewed flight tests. Both SpaceX and Boeing plan to launch in 2018.

SpaceX's current schedule plans to fly the company's crewed Dragon spacecraft that will launch an uncrewed mission in November. It is to be followed by a crewed test flight in May 2018.

As for Boeing, the company's CST-100 Starliner is scheduled to launch its first ever uncrewed test flight in June 2018. It will also be followed by a crewed flight in August 2018. However, the estimated flight dates have been rescheduled several times before, according to Space.com.

As follows, each of the spacecraft will carry up to four astronauts and 100 kilograms of cargo to the ISS. Also, they can serve as "lifeboats" to safely bring astronauts to Earth in case of emergency.

Meanwhile, NASA's space shuttle program came to an end in 2011. The agency has to depend on paying seats aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft that launches from Kazakhstan, to fly the American astronauts to the ISS.

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