Legal changes allowing NASA to buy Russian Soyuz launches to ensure US astronauts fly on the International Space Station (ISS) next year could be proposed at a joint US Senate and House of Representatives committee session this month.

From April 2006 the USA will be responsible for emergency crew return from the ISS – a role currently performed by Russia. But the USA does not have a replacement vehicle for the Soyuz capsule, which is used as an ISS escape vehicle.

So NASA will be forced to buy Soyuz capsules from the Russian Federal Space Agency (FSA). NASA may also have to pay Russia to transport its astronauts to the space station next year if the Shuttle fleet is still not flying.

With the April 2006 deadline, time is running out to change the Iran Non-proliferation Act (INA) 2000, which barred NASA from payments to the FSA following Russia’s alleged help for Iranian long-range missile development.

“We will address the INA when we have the conference about the [2006 NASA budget] authorisation bill with the Senate. We will insert the INA language in that final bill,” says the House science committee.


Source: Flight International