NASA announced this afternoon it plans to acquire up to three additional crew flights to the International Space Station (ISS) with SpaceX.
The sole-source modification will allow NASA to have uninterrupted US capability for human access to the ISS.
In October, NASA issued a request for information from the American space industry to provide space travel services. After a thorough review, NASA assessed that only SpaceX had a crew transportation system certified to meet NASA’s safety requirements.
Other companies, including Boeing, have transportation systems, but they are not at the level to meet NASA’s high requirements.
NASA further noted that they may need to use any additional flights on the SpaceX contract as early as 2023. Securing the flights now allows NASA the wiggle room to continue to work with Boeing on the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft and not focus on finding another space transportation service at the last minute.
NASA plans to use SpaceX and Boeing once the CST-100 Starliner completes its certification efforts. Once both spacecraft are operational, NASA will alternate missions with each company.
The current sole-source modification does not preclude NASA from seeking additional contract modifications if necessary. This means if Boeing continues to struggle with certification, the SpaceX sole-source contract can be extended.
Neither SpaceX nor Boeing provided any comment on the developments at NASA and the sole source modification.