Two years after SpaceX flew its first astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) in the Crew Dragon capsule, the company has announced that it is ending production of the spacecraft.
Speak with Reuters Space X President Gwynne Shotwell said this week that there are currently no plans to add more Crew Dragons to its current fleet of four capsules. However, the company will continue to manufacture components for the existing Crew Dragon spacecraft as they will continue to be used for future space missions.
The move to end production of the Crew Dragon is reportedly due in part to the company’s desire to shift resources to its next-generation Starship launch vehicle — consisting of the Super Heavy Booster and the Starship starship — which is expected to carry lunar missions and even Mars will be traveling in the next few years.
As Reuters points out, the fact that SpaceX was launched with the core goal of building spaceflight hardware that can be used multiple times meant that the company would eventually end production of the Crew Dragon. After flights, Crew Dragons will be serviced and overhauled at a dedicated SpaceX facility at Kennedy Space Center.
The four-seat Crew Dragon first flew to the space station in an unmanned test flight in 2019. A year later, NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken made the first manned flight to the ISS, carried into space by SpaceX’s workhorse Falcon 9 rocket. Behnken gave a video tour of the Crew Dragon on the way to the station.
The flight was historic for being the first commercially built spacecraft to carry astronauts into orbit, and also for the return of manned missions to the US nearly a decade after the Space Shuttle program was completed.
To date, Crew Dragon capsules have made four manned voyages to and from the ISS and one orbital voyage in the first space mission composed entirely of non-professional astronauts.
The next Crew Dragon mission is scheduled for April 6 and will bring three space tourists and a former NASA astronaut to the ISS for a stay of just over a week. The highly anticipated mission will be NASA and SpaceX’s first private astronaut journey to the orbiting outpost, with each of the three private individuals reportedly paying around $55 million for the once-in-a-lifetime experience.
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