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NASA Announces Crewed Flights Schedule to the International Space Station through 2024

NASA has been making progress in the development of the Commercial Crew Program over the past few years. The agency is working with Boeing and SpaceX to deliver crews to the International Space Station (ISS) and reduce NASA's reliance on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft. The recent announcement by NASA provides an updated schedule for astronaut flights to the ISS through 2024. The article will discuss the details of the upcoming flights and their significance in the future of human spaceflight.


Increasing Station Traffic and the Need for a Solidified Flight Manifest


Over the past few years, station traffic has been increasing, with the regular ferry of Russian Progress and Soyuz spacecraft, Northrop Grumman's Cygnus cargo vessel, and SpaceX's crew and cargo Dragon capsules joining the fleet. Boeing's Starliner vehicle was expected to join the fleet, but its development has been delayed. NASA has been working with Boeing and SpaceX to finalize the flight manifest for the upcoming crewed launches to the ISS.


Crew Test Flight of Starliner

The long-awaited Crew Test Flight (CFT) of Starliner is set for no earlier than (NET) July 21 this year. NASA astronauts Barry "Butch" Wilmore and Suni Williams will fly to the ISS for an eight-day shakedown mission before the capsule parachutes back to Earth in White Sands, New Mexico. The success of the CFT mission will determine the timing of Starliner-1's summer 2024 launch. The first operational crewed Starliner mission will feature NASA astronauts Scott Tingle and Mike Fincke, and two more crewmembers will be announced in the coming months.


Crewed Missions to the ISS aboard SpaceX Dragon


NASA's next crewed mission to the ISS aboard a SpaceX Dragon, Crew-7, is set for NET mid-August of this year. NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Andreas Mogensen have been assigned the mission, with two more expected to be announced in the coming weeks. Their mission will be significantly longer than Starliner's CFT, as typical SpaceX crew rotations last about six months.


SpaceX's Crew-8 mission is slated to lift NET February 2024. Meanwhile, SpaceX is also scheduled to fly a second crewed mission to the ISS for Axiom Space, Ax-2, in the coming months, in addition to the privately funded Polaris Dawn citizen astronaut flight to orbit later this year.


A Diverse Mixture of Private and Government-Funded Crewed Launches


The upcoming flights to the ISS mark a significant milestone in the development of the Commercial Crew Program. The next couple of years may turn out to be the most diverse mixture of private and government-funded crewed launches in American history. With more private companies entering the space race, human spaceflight is set to become more accessible than ever before. It's a pretty cool time to be a space fan.

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