NASA Administrator Charles Bolden wrote a letter to Congress revealing that the agency will be forced to extend their contract with the Russian government at a sum of $490 million – covering the costs for crew and supplies to be flown back and forth to the global Space Station.
The space agency chief and former astronaut sent a letter to Congress on Wednesday explaining that he had purchased more seats on Russian-made Soyuz spacecraft to transport astronauts to the worldwide Space Station. The news came hours after NASA administrator Charlie Bolden modified the Agency’s contract with Roscosmos, to the tune of an extra $490m, to cover projected delays to the Commercial Crew Program.
Sunita Williams, Robert Behnken, Eric Boe and Douglas Hurley will be trained for commercial spaceflights that will return American launches to US soil and further open up low-Earth orbit transportation to the private sector, the US space agency said. A budget ready for the Senate floor would give $900 million to commercial crew.
The selections are the latest major milestone in the Obama administration’s plan to partner with the US industry to transport astronauts to space, create good-paying American jobs and end the nation’s sole reliance on Russian Federation for space travel.
With these two different programs in place, NASA developed a two-pronged strategy in terms of its human space exploration efforts.
The White House asked Congress for $1.2 billion next year for NASA’s “commercial crew program”. With a $1 billion budget shortfall over four years, the earliest SpaceX or Boeing launch wouldn’t happen until 2018.
The reliance on Russia for station crew transportation stands in sharp contrast to a congressional ban on imports of Russian rocket engines for U.S. military satellite launches. The safe, reliable, and cost-effective solutions being developed here at home will allow for more astronauts to conduct research aboard the space station, enable new jobs, and ensure U.S. leadership in spaceflight this century.
“Reductions from the FY 2016 request… would result in NASA’s inability to fund several planned CctCap… and would likely result in funds running out for both contractors during the spring/summer of FY 2016.”
“This is a new and exciting era in the history of US human spaceflight”, said Brian Kelly, director of flight operations at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. I urge Congress to provide the funds requested for our Commercial Crew Program this year, so we can prevent this situation in the future.