NASA announced that amidst lack of U.S. Congressional funding, it has no other option that to rely on the Russian Soyuz to transport people to the ISS.
As the diplomatic relations between the U.S. and the Russian Federation are reaching a new low, unseen since the Cold War, NASA is constrained to rely on the spacecrafts of the Russian Federal Space Agency (ROSCOSMOS) to fly American personnel aboard the International Space Agency after 2017.
The stubbornness of the U.S. Congress is pushing the launch of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program further into the future, without a deadline in sight. Charles Bolden, of NASA commented:
“Unfortunately, for five years now, the Congress, while incrementally increasing annual funding, has not adequately funded the Commercial Crew Program to return human spaceflight launches to American soil this year, as planned”.
For now, the NASA has to rely on the Russian Soyuz flights to ferry American astronauts aboard the ISS, instead of the planned spacecrafts of Boeing and SpaceX. The contract agreed with ROSCOSMOS expires come 2019. Since 2012, when NASA’s own program ended, the agency has been relying exclusively on Russian space shuttles.
Expanding the contract with the Russian Federation’s ROSCOSMOS added 490 million dollars to NASA’s bill. SpaceX and Boeing development plans could use the 1 billion dollars in budget cuts.
Under the current circumstances it seems that the earliest date of a Boeing or SpaceX launch would be pushed to 2018.
In a letter, Charles Bolden explained that both companies involved in the program are considering withdrawing unless full funding is granted. For the U.S. this would mean a definite blow as no American spacecraft would be available for the foreseeable future.
In a paradoxical situation, while the U.S. is enforcing economic sanctions on the Russian Federation over the eastern Ukraine conflict, it still pays for space flights to the ISS rather than funding U.S.-based programs, including the development of SpaceX and Boeing spacecrafts.
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program needs 1.24 billion dollars in funding. However, the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate are proposing that the funding is cut by 250 million dollars to 300 million dollars.
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