NASA in negotiations to buy more Russian Soyuz astronaut seats

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Collusion with Russia discovered! NASA has begun negotiations with Russia’s Roscosmos space agency to buy more astronaut flights to ISS using Russia’s Soyuz rocket and capsule.

According to the story at the link, NASA’s last purchased ticket will fly in March of 2020, and these negotiations would buy flights beginning in the fall of 2020 and beyond into 2021. The story also cites statements by NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine to CNN, confirming these negotiations.

Apparently NASA thinks the manned capsules being built by Boeing and SpaceX will not be ready by the fall of 2020, and needs to buy tickets from Russia because of this.

However, the only reason those American capsules will not have been approved and flown by then will be because NASA’s timidity in approving their launch. The agency’s safety panel as well as its management have repeatedly delayed these private American capsules, sometimes for very strange reasons, including a demand that lots of paperwork be filled out, and what I consider to be an unjustified demand for perfect safety.

Had NASA adopted a reasonable criteria for launch, SpaceX’s Dragon capsule could have flown three years ago.

Meanwhile, NASA seems quite willing to put Americans on a Soyuz rocket, launched by a foreign power whose safety record in the past half decade has been spotty, at best. In that time Russia has experienced numerous quality control problems, including mistakes that led to an Soyuz abort during a launch and a Soyuz parachute failure during a landing, corruption that forced them to recall all rocket engines and freeze launches for almost a year, and sabotage where someone drilled a hole in a Soyuz capsule prior to launch, a sabotage that Russia still refuses to explain.

It is unconscionable for NASA to favor putting Americans on a Soyuz with many documented safety issues, but block the launch of Americans on American-made capsules, for imagined safety issues that have mostly made no sense. In fact, the contrast makes me wonder about the loyalty of NASA’s bureaucracy. They certainly seem to favor Russia and Roscosmos over private American companies.


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  • Kyle Kooy

    NASA is doing that because once SpaceX and Boeing start doing manned flight it would be the end of SLS, and maybe even the end of post Apollo NASA

  • V-Man

    Yes, SLS protectionism. Also, a simple matter of CYA:

    Dragon blows up: NASA’s fault, people get fired, pensions are lost.
    Soyuz blows up: it’s the Russians’ fault, we’re the victims here. Give us more money.

  • Scott M.

    On a related topic:

    Robert, what’s your take on the tweet by Jim Bridenstein just before the Starship presentation? I found it very strange.

  • Scott M: Bridenstine has never impressed me. He is a government man, despite his so-called conservative mouthings. He doesn’t like the fact that SpaceX is doing things outside of a “government space program”, and doing them better than NASA.

    The delays behind SpaceX and Boeing’s capsules have nothing to do with these companies and their effort. The delays have all been imposed on them by NASA. Bridenstine makes believe that isn’t true.

    Given the chance to act freely (Oh what a concept) these companies would have been flying one to three years ago.

  • mkent

    “Had NASA adopted a reasonable criteria[sic] for launch, SpaceX’s Dragon capsule could have flown three years ago.”

    Good heavens, no! SpaceX is nowhere close to ready even now. In case you missed it, SpaceX’s manned Dragon *blew up* a few months ago. They need to redesign their launch abort system and re-qualify it. They’ll be fortunate to fly manned by the end of *next* year.

    Boeing hasn’t been covering themselves in glory either on this contract. Their capsule also has issues, though they are much less severe than SpaceX’s.

    The capsules haven’t flown because they’re not ready. It’s as simple as that.

  • Edward

    mkent wrote: “They need to redesign their launch abort system and re-qualify it. They’ll be fortunate to fly manned by the end of *next* year.

    No. They only need to redesign a valve and some associated hardware and software, and they only need to re-qualify that portion of the launch abort system, not the entire system. If they have to restart qualification from scratch, then that is evidence that NASA is intentionally causing delays in operations.

  • Firebird

    We beat Russia to the Moon 50 years ago now lets go for Mars on our own let Ivan keep up the Eagle shall soar and the Bear will Crash and Burn

  • mike shupp

    I rather agree with Mr. Zimmerman — Bridenstine’s a government-type, a political manager with a bureaucracy under him to mollify, and other political types above him to please and demonstrate loyalty. Worth noting that Musk hasn’t distinguished himself as a Trump loyalist.

    Other hand, worth noting that Musk stands out as a space entrepreneur with much visibility and a public following. What he says gets noticed, so banging him on the head and keeping him on a “virtuous path” might make some political sense. Nobody at Boeing, however, is so visible or so vocal, so it’s understandable that they can be ignored. I am not saying this is a Good Thing.

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