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Old 11-27-2016, 02:28 PM
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Thumbs down Russia Will Not Send U.S. Astronauts to ISS After 2018

Russia Will Not Send U.S. Astronauts to ISS After 2018

Russia Will Not Send U.S. Astronauts to ISS After 2018
NASA has few other options for sending people to the space station.

Russia will not conduct any more space launches to send U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station after 2018, according to a release issued by the country’s TASS news agency.

“We are working with our partners under the effective contracts, but we have no plans for concluding new ones,” Sergey Saveliev, the deputy chief of Russia’s state-run space agency Roscosmos, told TASS.

Without question, Russian-American relations are at an all time low since the end of the Cold War. One of the brighter points to this conflict has been the fact that NASA and Roscomos have continued to get along with their collaborative projects and missions in relative peace. Since the shuttering of the Space Shuttle program in 2011, the U.S. has relied exclusively on sending its astronauts to the ISS aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft launches.

Unfortunately, this has put the United States at the mercy of Russia in the event any kind of conflict would arise. “We’re in a hostage situation,” former NASA administrator Michael Griffin once told ABC News. “Russia can decide that no more U.S. astronauts will launch to the International Space Station, and that’s not a position that I want our nation to be in.”

The situation hit a nadir when Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin tweeted in 2014:

“After analyzing the sanctions against our space industry, I suggest to the USA to bring their astronauts to the International Space Station using a trampoline.”

It seems Russia is now making good on subtle threats in the last few years to end their space relationship with the U.S.

The big question now is how will the United States continue to send astronauts to the ISS after 2018? Well, that year coincides with the test launch of NASA’s new Space Launch System. The goal of SLS is to launch rockets that can deliver spacecraft to places beyond Earth’s orbit, but there’s no reason to think it can’t also be used to send people to the ISS.

That just leaves the question of what kind of spacecraft will be delivering people to the station itself. NASA’s successor space vehicle to the shuttle Orion won’t be ready for crewed mission until 2023.

The agency instead may have to rely on private companies for such vehicles. Two of the most promising options are Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, which will hopefully conduct a manned launch in 2018, and the SpaceX Dragon Capsule, which will be conducting crewed tests just next year.

NASA has no qualms with working with private companies to fulfill its missions — especially American ones. The agency has enthusiastically worked with SpaceX and others to conduct ISS resupply missions for the last couple of years, allowing those companies to stretch their space legs and become more experienced with advancing their launch operations and technologies.

That’s critical, because the lack of experience on the part of those countries has reared its ugly head time and time again. After all, there have been multiple ISS resupply missions that have resulted in explosive failure — literally.

If NASA’s only recourse for sending astronauts to the ISS after 2018 are Elon Musk and others, they had better ensure those companies can guarantee the safety of those men and women aboard those spacecraft as well as Russia could with the Soyuz missions. Right now, it’s too early to say they can.


Should NASA Pay Russia $82 Million for Astronaut Rides?
Because it's going to -- because monopolies can charge monopoly prices.
Rich Smith (TMFDitty) Feb 3, 2016 at 1:13PM

Three years ago, I reported on how NASA had signed a contract to pay Russia's Federal Space Agency, aka "Roscosmos," $70.7 million a head to ferry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). This revelation sparked a lot of outrage on our comments page -- and no wonder.

According to private space pioneer Elon Musk, it only costs about $200,000 in fuel to send a rocket into space. Given that each Soyuz rocket Russia sends up carries three astronauts, that works out to less than $70,000 in fuel cost per astronaut. Yet Russia is charging us more than $70 million per astronaut flight.

Even counting the cost of the rocket itself, that seems a bit excessive -- and it gets worse.

Prices are subject to change...
The NASA contract I wrote about back in 2013, valued at $424 million in total, expires this year. And now we've learned that NASA has asked Congress to allocate funding for another six astronauts to travel to ISS through 2017. We also learn that Roscosmos has raised the price per seat to get them there.

The new price of $490 million will work out to $81.7 million per astronaut.

We'll pay the new price, of course, because in the absence of a Space Shuttle program, or any U.S. rocketships certified to carry astronauts into orbit, we really have no choice. Meanwhile, ISS is up there. It cost us more than $100 billion to build it. Obviously, we're going to pay however many millions of dollars are necessary to keep it populated and operating -- but we don't have to like it.

And we don't have to keep overpaying Roscosmos's extortionate taxi fare indefinitely.

The end of the "seller's market"
If you ask me, as word of the 17% price hike in the cost of "astronaut tickets" filters out, it's only going to give momentum to America's efforts to develop new rocket engines, and new spaceships, capable of manned spaceflight.

Already, Boeing (NYSE:BA) and SpaceX have won contracts to build new space capsules, capable of carrying not just cargo, but also astronauts, into orbit. At the same time, Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) is working with Blue Origin to develop a new line of American-built rocket engines capable of lifting these spaceships into orbit. (Together, Boeing and Lockheed Martin form the United Launch Alliance, which is responsible for most NASA space launches.) If the choice comes down to paying ever-increasing fees to Russia to carry our astronauts into orbit or paying Boeing and Lockheed a bit more to develop our own engines, rockets, and spacecraft to accomplish the same mission -- well, that's not a hard choice to make.

Five years after retiring the Space Shuttle, it's time to put Americans back in space under our own propulsion. - THIS I AGREE - we were number one for years but Congress wouldn't fund the NASA project's and turned it over to private or external sources.

O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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