US agency solicitation could lead to Russian space company becoming APAS supplier

NASA is considering buying engineering services from Moscow-based Energia in a move that could see the Russian space company contribute to development of the US space agency's Orion crew exploration vehicle.

Russian involvement could result from a NASA Johnson Space Center solicitation for the procurement of hardware and services. These include cargo and experiment delivery using Russian Soyuz and Progress vehicles International Space Station (ISS) inventory management system updates ISS servicing trade studies and engineering work for the Space Shuttle's Russian-designed ISS Androgynous Peripheral Assembly System (APAS) docking mechanism, which has been specified for the Orion.  "If the Orion programme decides to utilise some form of APAS - a decision not yet made - that effort could also be included in the scope of this contract," says a NASA source. The source adds that the contract, which specifies Energia as the supplier, may be placed with the Russian Federal Space Agency (FSA).

If Energia wins the work, it would be the second direct contract between the company and NASA since amendment of the US Iran Non-proliferation Act (INA) in 2005 lifted the ban on NASA buying equipment and services from Russia's space industry.

The first contract was a $17.9 million order, placed in August, for upgrades and parts for the ISS's toilet and water recovery system, and a spare air pump, all of which will be needed when the station changes to a six-person crew in 2009.

NASA had been forbidden from purchasing anything from the Russian space industry following the passing of the INA in 2000, when the US Congress concluded that intelligence proved Russian aerospace companies were aiding Iran's missile programme.

However, NASA was in special circumstances able to purchase services from the FSA: a 2005 amendment to INA 2000 lifted the blanket ban for ISS-related purchases.


Source: Flight International