Saturday, 22 September, 2018

NASA Commercial Crew Program for Space Station Faces Delays, Report Says

NASA Commercial Crew Program for Space Station Faces Delays Report Says SpaceX spacecrafts the Dragon and the Dragon Rider sit on display at a SpaceX facility
Elijah Vega | 13 July, 2018, 04:37

"GAO is making five recommendations, including that NASA develop a contingency plan for ensuring a USA presence on the ISS and clarify how it will determine its risk tolerance for loss of crew", stated the audit. "Additional delays could result in a gap in the USA access to the space station as NASA has contracted for seats on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft only through November 2019", the report said.

With potential commercial crew delays, NASA needs a backup plan to get astronauts to space, the U.S. Government Accountability Office has recommended.

In the report, NASA said it was working closely with its commercial partners to resolve the issues and was developing contingency plans in case of further delays. Since its last launch from the United States back in 2011, NASA has been paying Russian Federation up to $82 million per seat on the Soyuz.

"The process for manufacturing the spacecraft and contracting for those seats typically takes three years - meaning additional seats would not be available before 2021", it said.

With its last shuttle flight seven years ago this month, NASA has been paying Russian Federation up to $82 million a seat to ferry U.S. astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

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The Congressional watchdog agency also detected deficiencies in safety and risk assessment in the new spacecraft. And in a statement, NASA's human exploration chief, William Gerstenmaier, says the agency is actively working on options to keep Americans living and working, uninterrupted, at the station. He also noted that while the different documentation for measuring crew risk can be confusing, it is up to NASA's commercial crew program to assure the proper safety guidelines.

In 2014, SpaceX and Boeing respectively received $2.6 billion and $4.2 billion contracts to build crew transportation systems under the commercial crew program, NASA's flagship campaign to use the private sector for ISS missions.

The SpaceX capsule is a beefed-up, human-rated version of the Dragon capsule already used to deliver cargo; Boeing's craft is named Starliner.

The spacecraft should be certified by 2017, according to the agreement. The two companies are competing to see which one will be the first private company to launch American astronauts into space. There is no passenger in their planned test flight.

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