According to a US government audit report, it seems US astronauts might not get to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2019. NASA chose Boeing and SpaceX to build rockets that can transport astronauts to the space station as the contract with Russia’s Soyuz will end in November 2019.
However, neither Boeing nor SpaceX has been able to certify their programs, and that means that they might not be able to keep with the schedule. The independent Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported this issue on 12 June the following:
“There may be a gap in (US) access to the ISS if the Commercial Crew Program experiences additional delays. While NASA has begun to discuss potential options, it currently does not have a contingency plan for how to ensure an uninterrupted presence on the ISS beyond 2019.”
No Contingency Plan –No Extra Seats on Soyuz
Having no backup plan could result in a gap in access for more than half a year, added GAO:
“It is possible that neither contractor would be ready before August 2020, leaving a potential gap in access of at least nine months.”
The report adds that the United States might try obtaining more Soyuz seats, but it can be a difficult and long process:
“The process for manufacturing the spacecraft and contracting for those seats typically takes three years — meaning additional seats would not be available before 2021.”
Since NASA finished the US space shuttle program in 2011, they have relied on rockets from the Russian space agency to take US astronauts to the ISS.
Boeing was meant to have their manned capsule Starliner certified in January 2019, but the date could be pushed to December 2019. As for SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, it was meant to get certification in February 2019, and they will have to wait until at least January 2020 to get it.
Generally, astronauts stay on the ISS for five-six months, and now there are three Americans, one German and two Russians aboard.
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.