NASA Extends Contract For Russian Transportation To Space
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
The move is a reminder of how the US still has no transportation to space from its own soil ever since retiring the space shuttle program back in 2011. The $424 million addition to the contract extends services for Russian transportation through June 2017.
NASA said it hopes its US commercial crew space transportation will be providing cost-effective access to and from the space station and low-Earth orbit beginning in 2017.
“This modification to the Roscosmos contract will ensure continued US presence aboard the space station as NASA prepares for commercial crew providers to begin those transportation operations,” NASA said in a statement. “NASA is committed to launching US astronauts aboard domestic spacecraft as soon as possible. Full funding of the administration’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget request is critical to making these domestic capabilities possible by 2017.”
According to the space agency, the modification to the Russian contract covers comprehensive Soyuz support, including all necessary training and preparation for launch, flight operators, landing and rescue of six space station crewmembers on long-duration missions. The contract modifications also include additional launch site support.
NASA said the additional money would allow for a lead-time of about three years Roscosmos needs to build an additional Soyuz vehicle.
“NASA is committed to launching our astronauts on American spacecraft from US soil as soon as possible. Since the end of our Space Shuttle Program in 2011, NASA has relied on the Russian Space Agency for the launch and safe return of astronauts to and from the International Space Station aboard its Soyuz spacecraft,” said Administrator Charles Bolden. “While our Russian counterparts have been good partners, it is unacceptable that we don’t currently have an American capability to launch our own astronauts. That´s why the Obama Administration has placed such a high priority on correcting this situation.”
He said because the funding for President Barack Obama’s original plan has been significantly reduced, it is pushing back American launches to 2017.
“Even this delayed availability will be in question if Congress does not fully support the President’s fiscal year 2014 request for our Commercial Crew Program, forcing us once again to extend our contract with the Russians,” Bolden said. “Further delays in our Commercial Crew Program and its impact on our human spaceflight program are unacceptable. That´s why we need the full $821 million the President has requested in next year´s budget to keep us on track to meet our 2017 deadline and bring these launches back to the United States.”