SEATTLE — NASA is contemplating shopping for two further seats on Soyuz spacecraft to make sure a continued American presence on the Worldwide House Station amid worries about further delays in business crew flights.
In a presolicitation discover filed Feb. 13, NASA introduced it was contemplating contracting with the Russian state house company Roscosmos for 2 Soyuz seats, one on a mission launching within the fall of 2019 and the opposite within the spring of 2020. The discover was first reported by NASASpaceFlight.com.
The extra seats would be sure that NASA astronauts can stay on the station after the tip of this yr, when NASA’s present entry to Soyuz seats runs out. “This Soyuz seat procurement ensures uninterrupted entry to the ISS within the occasion of a delay in U.S. business crew launches, mitigating the numerous threat to ISS security and operations that the absence of U.S. crew members at any time limit would trigger,” the procurement discover states.
NASA initially deliberate to have business crew autos beneath growth by Boeing and SpaceX licensed by the tip of 2017. Each corporations, although, have skilled vital delays, and neither firm has flown their autos but on uncrewed check flights, not to mention these with astronauts on board. SpaceX is scheduled to launch its Crew Dragon spacecraft on a check flight with out astronauts on board no sooner than March 2.
NASA’s most up-to-date public schedule name for each autos finishing their crewed check flights by late summer time, however these plans are topic to additional delay. “Previous expertise has proven the difficulties related to attaining first flights on time within the last yr of growth. Usually, issues might be found throughout these check flights,” NASA states within the procurement doc. “The results of no US crew on ISS warrant safety by buying further seats.”
The 2 seats would guarantee NASA astronauts would stay on the station by way of September 2020, by which level the company expects at the very least one of many two business crew autos to be licensed and beginning to fly astronauts. Even when each autos are licensed earlier than then, NASA argues that the overlap interval between Soyuz and business crew might be helpful.
“Overlap with US business crew functionality is required to permit clean and protected transition to a brand new US functionality,” the doc states. “This overlap in crew transportation functionality offers assurance of steady protected operation and analysis exercise on ISS.”
NASA repeatedly purchased Soyuz seats, albeit at steadily growing costs, from Roscosmos within the post-shuttle period because it developed business crew autos. The final contract, signed in 2015, covered Soyuz seats on missions to the ISS through 2018. At the moment, NASA was nonetheless anticipating business crew autos to enter service by the tip of 2017.
In 2017, NASA agreed to buy five Soyuz seats from Boeing, who had obtained them as a part of an settlement with RSC Energia to settle a authorized dispute concerning Sea Launch. Two of the seats have been used to enhance the dimensions of the NASA crew on the station in 2017 and 2018, whereas three have been reserved for transporting crews to the ISS in 2019 as a hedge towards business crew delays.
It’s not clear how the 2 Soyuz seats turned out there. In late 2016, shortly earlier than shopping for the seats from Boeing, NASA officers stated it was too late to contract immediately with Roscosmos for seats due to the multi-year lead time required. NASA spokespersons didn’t reply to request for feedback Feb. 15 about these seats or the estimated worth NASA would pay Roscosmos for them.
The newest annual report of the Aerospace Security Advisory Panel (ASAP), an unbiased board that advises NASA on questions of safety, really helpful that NASA develop a contingency plan for accessing the station ought to business crew flights endure extra delays.
“As a result of potential for delays within the schedule for the primary [commercial crew program] flights with crew, senior NASA management ought to work with the Administration and the Congress to ensure persevering with entry to ISS for U.S. crew members till such time that U.S. functionality to ship crew to ISS is established,” the report, launched Feb. eight, acknowledged. NASA had not supplied a proper response to that suggestion on the time the report was printed.