NASA has renewed its contract with Boeing to support the International Space Station, which is good news for the troubled aircraft maker at a time of growing uncertainty in the transportation industry. After the extension, Boeing will continue to work with NASA, Roscosmos, JAXA, ESA and CSA until 2024 to ensure that the orbital research platform continues to function properly.
It’s a familiar project for Boeing: after all, it was responsible for building the first American-built part of the space station. Back in 1998, the component — the Unity node module, which connects the Russian and U.S. parts of the International Space Station — was installed by astronauts during the STS-88 mission.
In fact, Boeing was selected as the main contractor for the International Space Station as early as 1993. Since then, Boeing has worked with NASA on repairs and maintenance. Recently, the parties agreed to extend the operation of the International Space Station until at least 2024, prompting Boeing to renew its contract.
The contract will be worth $916 million, or about $225 million per year. In addition to managing many of the ISS’s systems, Boeing will also provide engineering support services, resources and personnel for activities on the Iss of Space Station. The ground work will be performed primarily at the Lyndon Johnson Space Center in Houston, the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and the Marshall Space Center in Huntsville, Alabama, although other projects will take place around the world.
The delay is good news for Boeing, which has had a difficult few years. The 737 Max’s problems have cost Boeing huge losses, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent shrinking of the aviation industry have done little to help. Earlier this week, Boeing confirmed that orders for 60 aircraft had been cancelled in June 2020 and 123 aircraft had been removed from its backlog.
On Friday, British Airways confirmed it would retire its Boeing 747 four years ahead of schedule. The fleet of 31 aircraft has become the latest victim of the new crown pandemic. In addition, NASA has removed Boeing from its Artemis 2024 Lunar Lander finals list, opting not to include the HLS program, but to move SpaceX, Blue Origin and Dynetics into the next round. While NASA did not give a reason for the decision, there is widespread speculation that the “abnormality” of last year’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft was a major factor in the change.