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SpaceX will stop making new Crew Dragon capsules. Here’s why

Two years after SpaceX flew its first astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) in the Crew Dragon capsule, the company has revealed it is ending production of the spacecraft.

Speaking to Reuters this week, Space X president Gwynne Shotwell said that there are currently no plans to add more Crew Dragons to its current fleet of four capsules. However, the company will carry on manufacturing components for the existing Crew Dragon spacecraft as they will continue to be used for future space missions.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft in orbit around Earth.
A SpaceX Crew Dragon approaching the International Space Station in April 2021, a day after launching from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA

The move to end production of the Crew Dragon is reportedly due in part to the company’s desire to shift resources toward its next-generation Starship launch vehicle — comprising the Super Heavy booster and Starship spacecraft — that’s expected to embark on lunar missions and even voyages to Mars in the coming years.

As Reuters points out, the fact that SpaceX started life with the core aim of building spaceflight hardware capable of being used multiple times meant the company was always going to stop manufacturing the Crew Dragon at some point. Following flights, Crew Dragons are maintained and refurbished at a special SpaceX facility at the Kennedy Space Center.

The four-seat Crew Dragon first flew to the space station in an uncrewed test flight in 2019. A year later, NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken took the first crewed flight to the ISS, carried into space by SpaceX’s workhorse Falcon 9 rocket. Behnken gave a video tour of the Crew Dragon on their way to the station.

The flight was historic for being the first commercially built spacecraft to carry astronauts into orbit, and also for returning crewed missions to the U.S. after an absence of nearly a decade following the closure of the space shuttle program.

To date, Crew Dragon capsules have made four crewed trips to and from the ISS, and one orbital trip in what was the first space mission made up entirely of non-professional astronauts.

The next Crew Dragon mission is set for April 6 and will carry 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 trip to the orbiting outpost, with each of the three private citizens reported to have paid around $55 million for the once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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