NASA is preparing to buy Russian Energia Soyuz-TMA launches to fulfil its obligation to provide emergency crew return from the International Space Station (ISS) from April 2006. A US-purchased Soyuz must dock next April if NASA is to have its astronauts on board the ISS from then until October 2006.
The US Iran Non-proliferation Act (INA) prohibits NASA from buying space equipment from Russia, but last week an open letter from NASA chief Mike Griffin and US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, proposing to amend the law, was sent to the House of Representatives committee on science.
“The amendment and contract negotiations with Roskosmos will have to happen in a fairly short timeframe,” says NASA.
Every six months after April, until the station is deorbited, a US paid-for Soyuz would operate as an escape capsule until NASA’s new Crew Exploration Vehicle can take the role. If no Soyuz launches are bought, US astronauts would be able to visit the ISS only when a Shuttle is docked with it.
ROB COPPINGER / LONDON
Source: Flight International