Two astronauts expected to fly on early missions of Boeing’s crew capsule will instead ride to orbit with SpaceX, NASA announced on October 6. “NASA decided it was important to make these reassignments to allow Boeing time to complete the development of Starliner while continuing plans for astronauts to gain spaceflight experience for the future needs of the agency’s missions,” NASA officials said in a statement. This will be the first spaceflight for both Mann and Cassada. Mann and Cassada had both been training on Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner capsule, for Starliner’s first operational mission. The valve issue of Starliner remains unresolved and the orbital test may be delayed until 2022.
Both Boeing and SpaceX hold multibillion-dollar contracts with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which were signed in 2014. SpaceX Director of Dragon Mission Management Sarah Walker revealed that NASA’s imminent Crew-3 mission will debut a new Crew Dragon capsule (likely C210), which will be carried into space on top of once-flown Falcon 9 booster B1067. B1067 debuted on June 3rd 2021, sending the second upgraded Cargo Dragon spacecraft on its way to the International Space Station (ISS) before returning to Earth and sticking a landing on drone ship. In theory, if Boeing’s Starliner finally become operational in 2023 and NASA continues to operate the ISS to 2030 and beyond, SpaceX will likely be tasked with supporting one NASA Crew Dragon launch annually between 2023 and 2030.