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SpaceX to Cap Crew Dragon Production at 4 Capsules

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
March 28, 2022
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The SpaceX Crew Dragon is pictured after undocking from the forward port on the Harmony module beginning its short trip to the space-facing port. (Credit: NASA TV)

Reuters reports that SpaceX will build only four Crew Dragon capsules as it shifts resources to its Super Heavy/Starship program.

Capping the fleet at four Crew Dragons adds more urgency to the development of the astronaut capsule’s eventual successor, Starship, SpaceX’s moon and Mars rocket. Starship’s debut launch has been delayed for months by engine development hurdles and regulatory reviews.

It also poses new challenges as the company learns how to maintain a fleet and quickly fix unexpected problems without holding up a busy schedule of astronaut missions.

“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 added that SpaceX would retain the capability to build more capsules if a need arises in the future, but contended that “fleet management is key.”

Crew Dragon is designed to be flown 10 times with refurbishment between each flight. SpaceX launches astronauts to the International Space Station under a NASA contract. The company is also sending private missions to the space station and on short trips to orbit.

Super Heavy and Starship vehicles are being designed for rapid reuse and airplane like operations.