File photo of acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot. Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani
NASA is working with the Russian space agency to potentially extend crew stays on the International Space Station, the agency’s acting administrator said last week, as a cushion against expected delays in the development of commercial crew capsules by Boeing and SpaceX.
Robert Lightfoot, who has led the U.S. space agency on an interim basis since January 2017, told lawmakers Thursday that NASA is looking for ways to ensure U.S. astronauts can fly to the space station in case commercial spaceships designed by Boeing and SpaceX are not operational by the time a transportation contract with Russia expires in late 2019.
One option already under study is potentially extending the first piloted test flights of the commercial crew ships from two days up to six months. NASA recently updated its commercial crew contract with Boeing, giving officials the option to lengthen the first piloted test flight of the company’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft from two weeks to six months, along with the possible addition of a third crew member.
The space agency said it would consider a similar arrangement with SpaceX if the company proposes it.
Lightfoot told a House ...