NASA has selected SpaceX for a new cargo transportation contract for at least six additional International Space Station deliveries through 2024. SpaceX was originally awarded a cargo transportation contract in 2008 that eventually totaled 20 missions. The company has successfully delivered cargo to the space station 17 times.
SpaceX will begin flying supplies to the ISS on a new variant of its Dragon spacecraft next year. The new spacecraft has a different aerodynamic shape than the first-generation Dragon models and will launch without seats, cockpit controls and other life support systems required for astronauts to stay in space. It will be capable of delivering up to 7,290 pounds of cargo to the space station. The changeover will have several benefits, including reduced time to recover, refurbish and re-fly the capsules.
SpaceX is planning to retire its current fleet of Dragon capsules next year. The models have been in use since 2010 and reached the space station for the first time in 2012. The assembly line for the original Dragon spacecraft design was shut down in 2017. Two more resupply missions are scheduled for December and next March before the new Dragon 2 vehicle begins flying.
SpaceX’s first transportation contract with NASA was valued at $3.04 billion, averaging $152.1 million per mission. The new contract is projected to cost more. Increased costs at SpaceX is one of the reasons for the hike in spending. SpaceX currently does most of its inspection and refurbishment work at its headquarters in Hawthorne, California, or at its test site in Central Texas.
NASA also selected Northrop Grumman for six or more missions to resupply the space station through 2024. Sierra Nevada Corp. won a third contract to ferry cargo to and from the space station. The total costs for these contracts have not yet been disclosed.