NASA Extends Crew Flight Contract With Russians

Photo Credit: NASA

Photo Credit: NASA

NASA recently inked a $424 million modification to an arrangement that the space agency has with the Roscosmos Russian Federal Space Agency. This extension will allow U.S., European, Canadian, and Japanese astronauts to travel to the International Space Station on Russian Soyuz spacecraft through June 2017—when it is hoped that commercial companies can take over this task.

Under this extension NASA continues to utilize the various services that Roscosmos has provided with its Soyuz spacecraft. This includes training, flight preparation, return, rescue, flight, and landing operations. Essentially all terms under the initial contract that NASA has with Roscosmos are maintained through this time frame. Additional launch site support will also be a part of this modification—prior to these, support services were part of a separate agreement.

The modification will allow Roscosmos a lead time of about three years, during which the company will construct more of the Soyuz spacecraft.

Meanwhile, NASA is working to empower private companies to provide access to low-Earth orbit (LEO). These include Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), Boeing, and Sierra Nevada Corporation. It is hoped that one or more of these firms can begin transporting U.S. astronauts to the ISS by the time this extension expires.

“I am pleased with the progress our commercial crew providers are making. We now have an American company resupplying cargo to the ISS—launching from U.S. soil—and another company on track to join in this competition. I’m confident that our ambitious plan for U.S. crew transportation, if fully funded, will allow U.S. commercial companies to launch our astronauts in just a few short years,” said NASA’s current administrator and four-time space shuttle veteran Charles Bolden on a recent blog post.

 

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25 comments to NASA Extends Crew Flight Contract With Russia

  • Karol

    President Obama and Administrator Bolden may have a bit of difficulty in being granted their request of over 821 million dollars for commercial space as Senator Richard Shelby (R.AL), ranking member of the Senate Commerce Justice and Science Subcommittee and the Senate Appropriations Committee stated at a recent NASA budget hearing that “This budget focuses, I believe, too heavily on maintaining the fiction of privately funded commercial launch vehicles which diverts, I think critical resources from NASA’s goal of developing human spaceflight capabilities with the SLS.” And as Senator Barbara Mikulski (D.MD) has stated, as the ranking member Senator Shelby is going to get the SLS he wants.

    • Leonidas

      I think Karol, that it would be a real shame if the commercial crew program is being left underdeveloped. Since someone will have to ferry those astronauts to the ISS back and forth, might as well be the private sector, while NASA focuses on developing SLS for anywhere else beyond LEO. Even if Congress doesn’t want to allocate more funding for commercial crew, they will have to give the same funding to the Russians anyway.

      • Karol

        I don’t believe that I offered an opinion as to whether or not we should provide over 821 million dollars to commercial for profit space ventures, I merely re-stated what was stated by Senator Shelby during a committee hearing. Again, as stated by Senator Mikulski, the political reality is that the SLS will be fully funded. The only question is what will be cut, NASA planetary science and exploration or the private sector for-profit commercial ventures.

        • Leonidas

          I know. I didn’t mean to criticise your comment, just that I feel is a real shame not to have both approaches.

  • Tracy

    I hope that Senator Shelby is successful in stopping all dollars spent for commercial space because it has already proven itself to be a viable industry. I suspect that once the SpaceX contract to cargo to the ISS is done that they will NOT renew with NASA. The private sector is ready to invest in Space in a big way only if government gets out of the way. Soon there will be SpaceX sending astronauts to the Private Space Stations by Bigelow Areospace…Please Please Senator do cut the commercial space support dollars…Put all those dollars into SLS and many more so that by the time it is ready to launch it will cost $1T per…and SpaceX using reusable systems will cost $10M for the FH9 ….Singularity is a Bitch…

    • Leonidas

      How do governments get in the way of private enterprise investing in space really?

      • Tracy

        By Nasa writing the check they get to set the guidelines..which are NOT in the best interest of creating a public space faring infrastructure …Rather a system of central control that avoids risk, innovation, expediancy, effeciency etc.

        • Leonidas

          Ok. If that’s the case and NASA is such a ‘bad’ agency for spaceflight, then why do the CRS and Commercial Crew private firms choose to accept money from NASA? Why aren’t they trying to raise all the needed funding to create a space infrastructure by themselves,through private investors and other private revenues? Why do they have to rely on NASA which clearly ‘gets in their way’?

          • Ouch. Yeah, I love it when you point this out to NewSpacers. They always bite the hands that funds them & disrespect the very agency that gives them major coin. I wish NASA would say, “Okay, since you hate us so much – you don’t need our money.” – & then cut them off. NewSpace trolls really need to grow up & show more appreciation & respect.

            • Leonidas

              To tell you the truth Jason, if I was head of NASA and had the power, I’d do exactly that!

              You know, I briefly participated in discussions in your last article you made about FH, and I tried to point out that if there’s such a big market and customer base awaiting the development of space systems by private firms, then why hasn’t this advancement taken place already and why is everyone still fighting over NASA money?

              I don’t think my point ever got through though…

              • Leo,
                Do you think it’d teach these types any manners? They sorely need it. The same thing happened back in the 90s, certain companies expected the satellite market to open up – it didn’t. Now we have ULA.

                The types of people who act this way – can’t see any point of view other than their own. They talk down, insult, attack & then are stunned when no one wants to have anything to do with them. How dense can you get? Don’t talk about someone that’s providing a large part of your profits! One can only hope they’ll learn some manners – but history tells me otherwise.
                Sincerely, Jason

  • Tracy

    No one should be surprised that the Russians are charging $70M per seat. They have no competition and as such can set the price…That is how the free market works …And how capitialism works..

  • Karol

    The free market and capitalism rely upon the expertise of economists, accountants, investment advisers, and financial analysts to make decisions based on the desire to make profit, not a fantasy about a retirement villa on Mars. “Sources have told AmericaSpace that Boeing has expressed concerns about the viability of the commercial space market after NASA’s investment in the commercial crew concludes.” Jason Rhian ‘Boeing Not a KSC Tenant – Yet’ AmericaSpace Perhaps the highly experienced and knowledgeable individuals at Boeing know exactly how capitalism works.

  • Sure Karol, central planning by the politburo experts is the way to go for sure. That’s what makes Russia the economic powerhouse it is today. Ignore the knowledge problem. /sarc

    Power corrupts. How? By interfering with the invisible hand. The result, just as Tracy says, $70m per seat and no domestic ability to compete. But that’s changing and not because NASA has a commercial program. The companies getting money from NASA, except perhaps Boeing, were all working on their vehicles before NASA got involved. For some, NASA still is not involved. It would have just taken a little longer and some might not have survived.

    COTS worked because it wasn’t business as usual. The companies involved were not tied up by the government design bureau and NASA benefited. If they do go back to business as usual, which they did attempt, expect some of the commercial vendors to say nyet. It’s happened before.

    Money is nice to have. But those so blinded by money they don’t realize it is not the source of innovation may never learn and we may have to continue to listen to them shout about their great soviet system (by any other name.) But it’s not the truth.

    Those with vision acting upon it are the source. That is FREE enterprise. Companies are sitting on their cash right now. America will start roaring again when government doesn’t have them so afraid that liquidity is lost. People are right to be afraid of the direction our economy is going. But it is possible we will pull back from the brink.

    It is not NASA that makes me feel good about the potential for the future. It is all those businesses trying to follow each of their own individual visions that does.

    • Karol

      Ken, thank you so much for the NewSpace snark. Boeing does rely on accountants and financial advisers in making business decisions whether you like it or not. Boeing is not confident in the future of commercial space absent government funding. NASA makes me feel good about the future more than Solyndra or other taxpayer funded “FREE” enterprise ventures chosen by your comrades in the Politburo.

  • Karol, that was free enterprise snark.

    Boeing is not confident in the future of commercial space absent government funding.

    Which is why I’m glad that Boeing (which I’ve been involved with since the late 60’s) is not the whole of free enterprise.

    Do you remember the sign on I-5 that said, “Will the last person to leave Seattle please turn out the lights.”

  • Why do they have to rely on NASA which clearly ‘gets in their way’?

    It is a peculiar question isn’t it? I’m not sure I should even weigh in or could even provide the best answer, but then again, why not take a stab at it?

    Economic literacy requires you see both the seen and the unseen. Which is a fundamental problem for anybody that thinks they understand economics. Many people have no idea what this means. Those are the people that should not be weighing in regarding economics. Thomas Sowell has some great books on the subject. Actually, almost all of his books because it’s fundamental to everything else he says. Actually, he credits Lionel Robbins with that fundamental definition and it applies here. (Page two of ‘Basic Economics.’)

    Business spends a certain amount of time looking for customers, right? We see what happens when NASA is one of those customers, but do we see the unseen?

    I’m not just talking about those other commercial customers that are waiting on the back burners. They are also part of the seen.

    The unseen are those relationships that never get brought out into the open because everybody is involved in that which is seen.

    Economics is the study of the use of scarce resources which have alternate uses.

    The only way to see the unseen and apply this fundamental principle is by thought experiment. We have to imagine NASA not being involved and see how that effects everything else. The answer is not as simple as, those companies now getting money from NASA don’t so they would not make any progress.

    Instead, those unseen potential relationships now have the opportunity to become part of the seen. So not only would those already seen back burner projects get more front burner time. But projects not even considered now become considered.

    So ‘gets in the way’ is not figurative language. It’s literal.

    Any argument about how fast or slow the money comes is missing the point.