Despite the scheduled return of US domestic crew launch capability this year, NASA is set to purchase more rides on the Russian Soyuz through 2020. The agency is adhering to a recommendation from its Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) after concerns were raised about the lack of a back-up option covering the potential delays that could be suffered during a challenging test flight phase for Dragon 2 and Starliner.
The United States has been using the Soyuz vehicle as a means of transporting its astronauts since the retirement of the Space Shuttle fleet in 2011. However, NASA’s reliance on the Soyuz vehicle as a back-up option has historical precedent, including its vital transportation role during the grounding of the Shuttle fleet following the loss of Columbia in 2003.
The long gap between the conclusion of STS-135 and the launch of Americans on the second Dragon 2 flight – odds on favorite to “Capture the Flag” left on the ISS by Atlantis’ crew – is expected to end this summer.
The flag left at the ISS from the crew of STS-135, to be “captured” by the first commercial crew – via NASA
However, this will depend on the outcome of several ...