Is Russia declining access to the International Space Station (ISS) to the US astronauts from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)? Russia’s agreement to shuttle NASA astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard Soyuz rockets will end in April, Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov confirmed to media, and this contract may not be extended in a bid to pressurize Trump administration.
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The expiration gathers supplementary pressure on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to renew its capacity to shuttle U.S. crew members back and forth to the orbiting lab. NASA is negotiating with Boeing Co. and SpaceX to develop new vehicles to transport astronauts, but the work has been troubled by relentless delays.
NASA has been dependent on Russia since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011. President Trump’s administration has promoted commercial program’s significance to cease that dependence, especially as diplomatic relations between the US and Russia worsened.
A Soyuz flight intended for April 2019 “will achieve the fulfilment of our commitments under a contract with NASA related to the delivery of U.S. astronauts to the ISS and their return from the station,” Borisov said at the Energia Rocket and Space Corp., reported by TASS.
In September 2014, NASA awarded Boeing and Elon Musk’s SpaceX a combined $6.8 billion to revive the U.S.’s capability to fly to the ISS station. SpaceX intends to fly Demo-2, its first test flight with a crew, in April 2019, and Boeing’s Crew Test Flight is now proposed for mid-2019, according to NASA.
Russia is anticipated to provide rides for astronauts through November 2019, the intended return date for a Soyuz capsule from the space station. “Acquiring further Soyuz seats seems doubtful, as the process for manufacturing the spacecraft and contracting for those seats takes about three years — suggesting additional seats would not be available until 2021,” the report said.
NASA pays about $81 million per seat on the Soyuz to fly astronauts to and from the space station. NASA signed an accord in 2017 to acquire extra Soyuz seats into 2019, even though no further contracts involving the Russian craft have been announced.