An unusual agreement may act as an insurance policy for NASA’s access to the ISS if commercial launches are delayed.
NASA may increase the number of astronauts living on the International Space Station this year, using the services of Boeing.
As part of the agreement with the Russian RSC Energia, which produces the capsules of the Union, Boeing is assigned seats on the vehicles scheduled for the flight this fall and next spring. In addition, there are three places to fly in 2019.
By then, NASA hopes to break its dependence on Russia regarding the delivery of crews to a research laboratory, hovering 250 miles above the Earth. After the shuttles program was closed in 2011, the Union capsules are the only comic ships available to fly to the station.
In a statement on Tuesday, NASA announced that it is considering the possibility of buying seats from Boeing, since “no other vehicles can provide flights in the autumn of 2017 or in the spring of 2018.”
NASA has already bought spaceboat Boeing and space commercial taxis that are still under development. It was originally planned to start flights in 2018, but the dates were delayed until 2019.
Availability of space on the flight capsule for the flight in 2019 is only insurance if new commercial ships are not ready for the deadline.
Additional seats in 2017 and 2018 will enable NASA to add a fourth crew member to the station staff. Russia, meanwhile, is cutting it from three to two. The economic maneuver was implemented after the delay in launching a new Russian scientific laboratory. Union locations were offered to Boeing under an agreement with Energia, which was the main owner and partner in another space launch company, Sea Launch.
Boeing did not say who would be charged for the seats in the Union, but the company said that the price would be more than the amount that the US space agency would pay directly to Russia.
NASA’s last contract with Roscosmos was concluded in August 2015 with 6 seats, covering flights until 2018. Unit price - $ 82 million
Boeing did not say whether the price would be greater than NASA would pay for CST-100 Starliner capsules scheduled for an unmanned test flight in June 2018.
SpaceX declined to comment.
NASA says that buying places will not affect other contracts with Boeing or SpaceX.
“NASA ordered six crew missions from each commercial supplier,” said spokesman Tabata Thompson in an email.
“Purchased sites provide a unique opportunity for the United States to increase the amount of research that can be of great benefit. Although commercial suppliers are making progress, we must cover the rear in case of unforeseen trouble, ”she wrote.
NASA plans to begin negotiations with Boeing for seats in the Union this month. Answers are expected on January 27th.