According to a report, SpaceX will no longer produce new Crew Dragon capsules.
According to Reuters, SpaceX has announced that it will no longer produce new vehicles of its Crew Dragon capsule, which is used to transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station. For the time being, the Crew Dragon fleet for carrying humans will be limited to four, which SpaceX will re-fly repeatedly to deliver crews to space.
“We are finishing our final [capsule], but we still are manufacturing components, because we’ll be refurbishing,” said SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell to Reuters. After each flight, a Crew Dragon must undergo refurbishment in Florida, where specific gear is modified or replaced out to make the vehicle flight-ready again. A request for comment from SpaceX was not responded.
SpaceX originally designed the Crew Dragon for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which aimed to promote the development of private vehicles to transport agency personnel to and from the International Space Station. As part of that program, SpaceX has launched four NASA astronaut teams to the International Space Station on the Crew Dragon. The business launched its first wholly private crew in September of last year, transporting four civilian astronauts to Earth orbit for a three-day trip.
The business has a number of future missions planned for the four Crew Dragons, which have been named after their initial astronaut crews: Endeavour, Resilience, Endurance, and Freedom.
Axiom, a commercial space station business, will send a crew of four private astronauts to the space station aboard a Crew Dragon for a 10-day journey in about a week. After this maiden flight, Axiom has a contract with SpaceX to launch at least three more human missions to the ISS on Crew Dragon.
Meanwhile, SpaceX continues to have a contract with NASA to send humans to the International Space Station every six months and then return them home. NASA awarded SpaceX three more human trips to the ISS aboard Crew Dragon in February, in addition to the six SpaceX was previously contracted to do. The announcement increased SpaceX’s Commercial Crew contract with NASA to $3.49 billion.
While SpaceX has stopped manufacturing of the Crew Dragon, the corporation is investing heavily in the development of its new Starship rocket, a large new aircraft meant to transport people and cargo to deep space destinations such as the Moon and Mars. However, Shotwell told Reuters that if necessary, SpaceX can restart Crew Dragon construction.