According to a report in SpaceX says it will no longer build new vehicles for its Crew Dragon capsule, the spacecraft the company uses to ferry people to and from the International Space Station Reuters. For now, the plan is to limit the Crew Dragon fleet to four for human transport, which SpaceX will keep reflying to get crews into space.
“We’re finishing our final [capsule]but we’re still making components because we’re going to overtake,” said SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell Reuters. After each flight of a Crew Dragon, the spacecraft must go through an overhaul process in Florida, during which certain hardware is tweaked or replaced to make the craft ready to fly again. SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment.
SpaceX originally developed the Crew Dragon for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, an initiative to spur the creation of private vehicles to ferry agency astronauts back and forth from the ISS. As part of this program, SpaceX has brought four crews of NASA astronauts to the ISS on the Crew Dragon. In September last year, the company launched its first fully private crew, carrying four civilian astronauts into Earth orbit for a three-day journey.
The company has many future voyages planned for the four Crew Dragons, each named by their first astronaut crews: Endeavor, Resilience, Endurance, and Freedom.
In about a week, a commercial space station company called Axiom will ferry a crew of four private astronauts on a Crew Dragon for a 10-day trip to the space station. Axiom has a contract with SpaceX to launch at least three more manned missions to the ISS on Crew Dragon after this first one. Meanwhile, SpaceX still has a contract with NASA to bring crews to the ISS every six months and then bring them back home. In February, NASA awarded SpaceX three more manned Crew Dragon missions to the ISS, in addition to the six that SpaceX was originally contracted for. The news brought SpaceX’s commercial crew contract with NASA to $3.49 billion.
While SpaceX has paused production of the Crew Dragon, many resources are pouring into the development of the company’s new Starship rocket, a massive new vehicle designed to ferry people and cargo to space destinations like the Moon and Mars. However, Shotwell tells Reuters that SpaceX may resume production of Crew Dragon at any time should the need arise.