With potential commercial crew delays, NASA needs a backup plan to get astronauts to space, the U.S. Government Accountability Office has recommended.
In a July 11 report, GAO noted that SpaceX and Boeing could miss current schedules of having commercial crew capsules certified by NASA by one year or more. In the said report, the agency recommended NASA to share more schedule details with Congress, as well as develop a contingency plan for “uninterrupted U.S. access” to the International Space Station.
In Focus: Delays In Commercial Crew Program
Both private spaceflight firms are shooting for test flights by end of the year, AP reported. However, the 47-page report highlighted further delays despite ongoing progress.
These postponements could result in a gap in access to the ISS, as NASA’s use of Russian Soyuz seats is also ending late 2019. Since its last launch from the United States back in 2011, NASA has been paying Russia up to $82 million per seat on the Soyuz.
The Congressional watchdog agency also detected deficiencies in safety and risk assessment in the new spacecraft.
“GAO is making five recommendations, including that NASA develop a contingency plan for ensuring a U.S. presence on the ISS and clarify how it will determine its risk tolerance for loss of crew,” stated the audit.
Since 2014, the two private companies have been mounting a bid to be the first to fly Americans again to space. NASA’s own space shuttle program already ended by then, and the agency began to award almost $7 billion in contracts to SpaceX and Boeing to develop crew vehicles and perform flight demonstrations.
The spacecraft should be certified by 2017, according to the agreement.
Space Race In Action
Boeing is developing Starliner, while SpaceX is working on a human-rated counterpart of the Dragon capsule. The latter is already delivering cargo to the orbiting space laboratory, which currently has three Americans, one German, and two Russians astronauts. There is no passenger in their planned test flight.
The growth of commercial spaceflight is also predicted to cause some operational challenges to existing domestic and international airlines.
In a Federal Aviation Administration data published June 26, the Air Line Pilots Association said that every new rocket launch means heavier air traffic, as well as more flight delays.
Elon Musk, SpaceX founder and CEO, remains adamant in their mission, urging humanity to become a “spacefaring civilization” and extend life to other worlds to “preserve the light of consciousness.”