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SpaceX's Flagship Crew Capsule Is No Longer Being Manufactured: Reuters

SpaceX's Flagship Crew Capsule Is No Longer Being Manufactured: Reuters
A business executive told Reuters that SpaceX has stopped producing new Crew Dragon astronaut capsules, according to a report published by the news agency Reuters quoting information from an executive of the company, because the focus of Elon Musk's space transportation company is now to develop its next-generation spaceship.
Limiting the fleet to four Crew Dragons increases the urgency of developing the astronaut capsule's eventual successor, Starship, SpaceX's moon and Mars rocket. The launch of Starship has been delayed by months due to engine development issues and regulatory approvals.
It also presents new hurdles as the corporation learns how to manage a fleet and quickly fix unexpected faults without disrupting an astronaut mission timetable.
"We are finishing our final (capsule), but we still are manufacturing components, because we'll be refurbishing," SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell told Reuters, confirming the plan to end Crew Dragon manufacturing.
She went on to say that SpaceX would keep the option to produce more capsules if the need arose in the future, but that "fleet management is critical."
Because Musk's business model is based on reusable spacecraft, it was unavoidable that the company will discontinue production at some point. However, the timetable was unknown, as was his intention of employing the existing fleet to complete its backlog of missions.
Since 2020, when it flew its first pair of NASA astronauts and became the United States space agency's primary vehicle for delivering humans to and from the International Orbit Station, Crew Dragon has flown five crews of government and private astronauts to space.
Following each mission, the capsules are refurbished in SpaceX's facilities in Florida, which the corporation refers to as
"There's lifetime cycle issues, where once you start using it the third, fourth, fifth time, you start finding different things," said retired NASA astronaut and former SpaceX executive Garrett Reisman, who now consults for the company on human spaceflight matters.
"SpaceX is really good about identifying these issues quickly and then acting quickly to fix them," Reisman added, pointing to an investigation in 2021 in which SpaceX discovered and fixed within months a toilet leak aboard a Crew Dragon capsule that had flown humans twice.
NASA has provided SpaceX with $3.5 billion to assist in the development and eventual usage of Crew Dragon for six missions to the space station. It added three new missions to compensate for delays with Boeing Co.'s Starliner capsule.
Under its NASA contract, SpaceX has transported four astronaut crews to the space station at a cost of approximately $255 million per voyage. Last year, the business completed a wholly private voyage in Earth orbit with four passengers, including a millionaire entrepreneur who funded the flight.
At least four additional commercial astronaut trips aboard Crew Dragon are planned with Houston-based space station builder and spaceflight manager Axiom Space, with the first, dubbed Ax-1, scheduled for April and bringing four entrepreneurs to the space station to perform scientific research.
Musk, SpaceX's founder and CEO, has concentrated his efforts in recent years on the company's hurried creation of a reusable Starship, the centrepiece of Musk's goal of someday colonising Mars.
SpaceX's main reusable rocket, the Falcon 9, and its more powerful variant, the Falcon Heavy, are also rebuilt after each mission, and not every component can go to space more than once.
"The goal is to get more and more like aircraft operations, where you can take the vehicle after it lands, fill it back up with gas and oxygen, and go again very rapidly," Reisman said.
"Starship, if it achieves its design objectives, would be able to affordably replace everything that Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy and Dragon can do."

Christopher J. Mitchell

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