KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — NASA has ordered additional crewed launches from SpaceX to the International Space Station after the private space company’s successful missions to the orbital science structure.

Officials said the three additional SpaceX crewed flights “allow NASA to maintain an uninterrupted U.S. capability for human access to the space station.”

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SpaceX has completed five manned mission to orbit, including Crew Dragon 2, Crew-1, Crew-2, Inspiration4 and Crew-3. Eighteen people have flown to space aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecrafts.

The Boeing Starliner spacecraft was originally planned to also be capable of launching astronauts around the same time as SpaceX, but several setbacks have delayed the company’s timeline.

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“It’s critical we begin to secure additional flights to the space station now so we are ready, as these missions are needed to maintain a U.S. presence on station,” said Kathy Lueders, associate administrator of NASA’s Space Operations Mission Directorate. “Our U.S. human launch capability is essential to our continued safe operations in orbit and to building our low-Earth orbit economy.”

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Officials said securing additional flights also allows NASA to continue working with Boeing on the development of the company’s Starliner spacecraft, which will also fly NASA and international partner astronauts to and from the space station after completing its certification effort.

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