Why SpaceX is stopping the production of its Crew Dragon capsules

SpaceX will cease production of its Crew Dragon human spaceflight capsule, preferring to keep its existing four-vehicle fleet. Gwynne Shotwell, the company’s president, confirmed the decision on Monday. Efforts will now be focused on maintaining existing capsules.

Eight years ago, NASA signed up with SpaceX and Boeing to operate commercial flights (cargo and astronauts) to the ISS. SpaceX developed its capsule named Crew Dragon, while Boeing developed its capsule named Starliner, which has yet to fly. For its part, Elon Musk’s company now has four vehicles named Endeavour, Resilience, Endurance, and Freedom. From now on, SpaceX will no longer produce new capsules, but simply components for the maintenance of ships already available.

Gwynne Shotwell, the company’s president, told Reuters that SpaceX would retain the ability to build more capsules if a need arises in the future, but that ” fleet management was now essential“.

The move comes as SpaceX focuses on its Starship rocket, a massive interplanetary, reusable craft central to the company’s ambitions to take humans to the Moon and Mars. A first orbital test flight could also take place next May or during the summer.

Several key missions

For its part, the Crew Dragon capsule, which reached Earth orbit for the first time in March 2019, has already proven its worth and helped end the United States’ dependence on Russia to transport astronauts to and from from the International Space Station (ISS).

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon also distinguished itself with the first all-civilian spaceflight in history. The latter took place in September 2021 as part of the Inspiration4 mission. The crew included Hayley Arceneaux, childhood cancer survivor and medical assistant, Jared Isaacman, billionaire and founder of payment processing company Shift4 Payments, Sian Proctor, geoscientist and science communicator, and Chris Sembroski, engineer and veteran. of the Air Force.

The Crew Dragon Endeavor docked to the ISS. Credits: NASA

In February 2020, the Resilience capsule also broke the record for longest time spent in space by an American crew vehicle. The old record was previously held by an Apollo command module that spent 84 days, one hour and sixteen minutes in space as part of the Skylab 4 mission in the early 1970s. of the third and final manned mission to Skylab, the first American space station.

In total, the Resilience crew stayed 168 days in orbit, including 167 days aboard the ISS. The capsule returned to Earth to splash down in the Gulf of Mexico in May 2021.

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