NASA awards SpaceX a contract to launch additional crewed flights amid Russia-Ukraine conflict that could affect cooperation at the Space Station

NASA awards SpaceX a contract to launch additional crewed flights amid Russia-Ukraine conflict that could affect cooperation at the Space Station

On Monday, February 28, NASA announced it awarded SpaceX a $900 million contract to launch three additional astronaut missions to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contract. The additional flights “brings the total missions for SpaceX to nine and allows NASA to maintain an uninterrupted U.S. capability for human access to the space station,” the agency said in a press release. “This is a firm fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract modification for the Crew-7, Crew-8, and Crew-9 missions, bringing the total contract value to $3,490,872,904. The period of performance runs through March 31, 2028. The current sole source modification does not preclude NASA from seeking additional contract modifications in the future for additional transportation services as needed.”

SpaceX returned human spaceflight capabilities to the United States in 2020. NASA was dependent on Russia's Roscosmos Space Agency to launch American astronauts to ISS for a decade until the Commercial Crew Program (CCP) launched the first crewed flight from American soil with SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft. To date, the private company has launched four crewed missions to and from the orbiting laboratory for NASA. 

The award comes amid the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Since Russian forces invaded the innocent country and started a war around a week ago, it is causing global tensions to rise. In an attempt to convince Russia to stop the aggression against Ukraine, the United States (among other countries) imposed strong sanctions against Russia’s government that also have potential to affect the country’s space program. The leader of the Russian Space Agency Dmitry Rogozin was upset by the sanctions imposed against Russian president Vladimir Putin and his country. Rogozin said that imposing sanctions would only make the conflict worse. In a Twitter thread, he talked about how the U.S. sanctions will cause problems in outer space and threatened the U.S. space program by stating –“[…] If you block cooperation with us, who will save the ISS from an uncontrolled deorbit and fall into the United States or Europe? There is also the option of dropping a 500-ton structure to India and China. Do you want to threaten them with such a prospect? The ISS does not fly over Russia, so all the risks are yours. Are you ready for them?” he wrote, “[…] To prevent your sanctions from falling on your head. And not only in a figurative sense. Therefore, for the time being, as a partner, I suggest that you do not behave like an irresponsible gamer […] Friendly advice,” wrote Rogozin in Russian language. SpaceX founder Elon Musk replied to his aggressive Tweet with the ‘SpaceX’ logo, suggesting the company would be capable of saving the Space Station from falling to Earth. 

NASA and Roscosmos leaders signed a barter agreement in December 2021 that said Russia and the United States would launch American astronauts aboard Soyuz and Russian cosmonauts aboard American-made spacecraft to support both countries space programs. –“Anna Kikina, as part of the Roscosmos-NASA cross flights, will fly to the ISS in the Fall of 2022 as part of the crew of an American commercial spacecraft. Accordingly, we will include the NASA astronaut in our crew on the Soyuz MS manned spacecraft,” Rogozin announced last year. As tensions increase between the powerful nations there is uncertainty on how cooperation in outer space between U.S. and Russia will continue long-term.

NASA is actively working to maintain diplomacy in spite of Rogozin’s aggressive Twitter rant.  NASA Associate Administrator Kathy Lueders said during a press conference on Monday –“We are not getting any indications at a working level that our [Russian] counterparts are not committed to ongoing operations.” The NASA and Russian Roscosmos “teams are still talking together, we’re still doing training together, we’re still working together,” Lueders said. There are seven people on board the Space Station right now: four NASA astronauts, one German European Space Agency astronaut, and a pair of Russian cosmonauts. Lueders said NASA still plans to return astronaut Mark Vande Hei from ISS aboard Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft in around a month. The American astronaut and former United States Army officer was launched by Russia around five months ago as part of a cooperation agreement. SpaceX will return Crew-3 astronauts sometime in April to complete a six-month-long mission.  Let’s hope/pray that the Russian-Ukriane conflict gets resolved with a peaceful outcome for the benefit of all of humanity.

Thanks for supporting TESMANIAN. ♡ Twitter: Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo @JaneidyEve

Featured Images Source: NASA & SpaceX

About the Author

Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo

Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo

Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.

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