NASA’s Commercial Crew Program Set to be Delayed

15 Julio, 2018, 15:20 | Author: Enrique Watson
  • The Souyz-2 spacecraft with Meteor-M satellite and 18
additional small satellites launches from Russia's new Vostochny
cosmodrome

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a new report today raising more warning flags about delays in the commercial crew program that could imperil NASA's ability to ensure us astronauts are always aboard the International Space Station (ISS). But the report from the Government Accountability Office indicates that the problems could cause delays in the launch of the first manned mission in the United States of a private company and could result in a nine-month interval in which astronauts do not inhabit the ISS.

The report notes, though, that those dates could slip further: a variety of dates of NASA for certification milestone will likely to expand into the fall of 2020. Since then, NASA has paid for seats aboard Russian spacecrafts. All together, November 2019 is the last seat NASA has on a Soyuz to bring a crew member home.

The report warns that "without a viable contingency option for ensuring uninterrupted access to the ISS in the event of further commercial crew delays, we concluded that NASA is at risk of not being able to maximize the return of its multibillion-dollar investment in the space station".

SpaceX and Boeing have been vying to be the first to return Americans to space from US soil since 2014, three years after NASA's shuttle program ended. Under the contracts, both space companies are tasked with developing commercial crew transportation systems; the eventual initial missions under these contracts will involve trips to the International Space Station.

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NASA officials have said they are working on options to address the gap, but that planning is hard because of "the extensive worldwide negotiations required for some options". Of the five recommendations, NASA agreed with three of them; the only one it fully "non-concurred with" was a recommendation to report its schedule analysis directly to Congress. NASA, though, said in a response that it has no plans to do so, and will instead maintain current practice of using company estimates along with a "qualitative statement" from the agency on those schedules. The companies had initially been required to prove to NASA that their spacecraft would meet the agency's requirements for human space flight by 2017. "The partners schedule risk assessment will match NASA's analysis or NASA will discuss our position as we have in past reports".

GAO again recommended that NASA decide on a contingency plan.

Some other recommendations include safety issues, which consist of separation of roles in order to manage safety issues related to commercial crew and also an independent supervision of safety in order to avoid hold of both by the same person. 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.

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