SpaceX pausing production of new Crew Dragon spacecraft

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According to a story in Reuters, SpaceX has announced that it would no longer be producing new vehicles of its Crew Dragon capsule, the spaceship that the corporation uses to transport passengers to and from the International Space Station. For the time being, the goal is to limit the number of Crew Dragons that may be used to transport people to four, which SpaceX will re-fly over and again to transport personnel to space.

Gwynne Shotwell, President of SpaceX, told Reuters that the company is nearing completion of its final [capsule], but that it is still building components since it will be refurbishing. After each flight of a Crew Dragon, the spacecraft needs be returned to Florida for refurbishment, during which key hardware components are modified or replaced in order to make the vehicle flight-ready again. Despite repeated requests for comment, SpaceX did not provide any.

“THE FINAL [CAPSULE] IS COMPLETE, BUT WE ARE STILL MAKING COMPONENTS,” says the project manager.

SpaceX originally designed the Crew Dragon for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which aimed to encourage the development of commercial spacecraft to transport agency astronauts back and forth from the International Space Station (ISS). As part of that program, SpaceX has successfully flown four NASA astronaut teams to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard the Crew Dragon. Four citizen astronauts were flown into Earth orbit for a three-day journey by SpaceX in September of last year, making it the company’s first wholly private crew.

It is anticipated that the four Crew Dragons, each of which has been named by its respective first astronaut crews: Endeavour, Resilience, Endurance, and Freedom, will make a number of voyages into space in the near future.

In less than a week, a commercial space station business named Axiom will launch a crew of four private astronauts on a Crew Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station for a 10-day mission. After this maiden flight, the axiom has a contract with SpaceX to fly at least three future human missions to the International Space Station aboard the Crew Dragon.

Meanwhile, SpaceX continues to be contracted by NASA to launch humans to the International Space Station (ISS) every six months and subsequently return them to Earth. NASA approved SpaceX for three more human trips aboard Crew Dragon to the International Space Station (ISS) in February, on top of the six missions SpaceX was previously contracted to do. The announcement increased the value of SpaceX’s Commercial Crew contract with NASA to $3.49 billion.

However, although SpaceX has halted manufacturing of its Crew Dragon spacecraft, the firm is devoting significant resources to the development of its Starship rocket, a vast new aircraft meant to transport people and cargo to deep space destinations such as the Moon and Mars. SpaceX’s CEO, Shotwell, told Reuters that the company can always resume Crew Dragon manufacturing if the situation calls for it.

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