12 Jul 2018 14:05

NASA may ask Russia for additional Soyuz seats due to delayed U.S. ships' certification - source

MOSCOW. July 12 (Interfax) - The United States may fail to certify its manned spaceships before August 2020, in which case NASA will need additional seats on Russian Soyuz ships, according to the United States Government Accountability Office.

"Additional delays could result in a gap in U.S. access to the space station as NASA has contracted for seats on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft only through November 2019," the Office said.

"The earliest and latest possible completion dates for certification in NASA's April 2018 schedule risk analysis indicate it is possible that neither contractor would be ready before August 2020, leaving a potential gap in access of at least 9 months," it said.

A source in the Energia Corporation told Interfax that because of the extended period of operation of Russia's Soyuz spaceships, the last NASA astronaut will be transported under the contract concluded via Boeing in January 2020, instead of November 2019.

"Hence, the United States and its partners may temporarily lose access to the ISS for seven months, instead of nine," the source said.

NASA could ask Roscosmos for assigning additional seats for its astronauts on Russian Soyuz spaceships, he said.

"If the United States fails to certify its manned spaceships by August 2020, they may need additional seats on Russian Soyuz manned ships. Yet it is physically possible to assign just one seat per Russian spaceship, which is meant for tourists. Two other seats are reserved for Russian crewmembers of the ISS," the source said.