Russia will cut off U.S. access to ISS next spring

Russia's deputy prime minister said that the Russian space program will no longer ferry U.S. astronauts to space after April next year.
By Rick Docksai | Sep 07, 2018
U.S. astronauts might be left with no transportation into space whatsoever starting next spring. Russian news station Kommersant reported this week that Russia intends to stop offering U.S. crews to the International Space Station (ISS) in April 2019.

Russia has been flying U.S. astronauts to space aboard its Soyuz space vehicles under a contract with NASA. Soyuz launches have been U.S. astronauts' only transportation to space since the cancellation of NASA's shuttle program in 2011.

That contract expires in April, and Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov is reportedly considering not renewing it. According to Kommersant, he said that the return flight next year of one Soyuz flight from the ISS with several U.S. astronauts on board "will finalize the fulfillment of our obligation under a contract with NASA."

Other Russian officials said otherwise, though. Sergei Krikalev, director of Russia's human space-flight program, told Russian News Agency TASS that Russia is still deciding whether to renew the contract with NASA and that "there have been no concrete decisions."

NASA is funding the development of new U.S. space flight vehicles by private companies Boeing and SpaceX. Both companies intend to launch crewed test flights of their new vehicles next year, but even the most optimistic forecasts anticipate these vehicles not being ready for actual missions until some time in 2020which would leave a gap of a half-year or more in NASA's absolute to access the ISS.

The space station isn't the only destination NASA hopes its astronauts will be able to fly to in the near future. The agency is working with Russia's space agency and other international partners to build another space station that will orbit the Moon and serve as a "gateway" for lunar missions and eventual missions to Mars and beyond.

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