NASA’s Commercial Crew Program Gutted by Congress

The President’s 2016 request for $1.2b towards the continued development of the Commercial Crew program by Boeing and SpaceX has been reduced to $900 million by Congress.

At present there is only one way to get crew to the International Space Station aboard Russia’s Soyuz rocket. To allow its astronauts to fly to the station NASA has to purchase seats from Russia which at the last count totaled $76m per seat. With the latest budget it is very likely that the CCtCap program will not be completed as planned in 2017 requiring that NASA purchase additional seats from Russia.  It is very likely that the price per ticket could go up as it has each time NASA purchases more seats.

As NASA Administrator Charles Bolden stated

“I am deeply disappointed that the Senate Appropriations subcommittee does not fully support NASA’s plan to once again launch American astronauts from U.S. soil as soon as possible, and instead favors continuing to write checks to Russia.

 

“Remarkably, the Senate reduces funding for our Commercial Crew Program further than the House already does compared to the President’s Budget.

 

“By gutting this program and turning our backs on U.S. industry, NASA will be forced to continue to rely on Russia to get its astronauts to space – and continue to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into the Russian economy rather than our own.

 

“I support investing in America so that we can once again launch our astronauts on American vehicles.”

Senator Nelson has also made a statement regarding this

This decision is particularly worrying for several reasons:-

  1. Russia have suffered a number of hardware issues in recent weeks including two launch failures, one Progress thruster failure (later resolved) and just this week a Soyuz thruster issue.
  2. Congress has mandated that United Launch Alliance must stop using Russian RD-180 engines for US Military launches, yet with this budget are continuing to fund the very same government for US Astronauts
  3. Having a single option available to launch crew to a $100 billion space station for another 2+ years is asking for trouble, as we have seen with the Commercial Crew program if there had not been redundancy in the program US cargo missions would have been delayed by more than a year with the Orb-3 launch failure.

So what can we do about this?  Contact your local elected official and ask them to fully support the Commercial Crew program and allow US Astronauts to be launched on US vehicle.  If you don’t know who you official is, the following page will help.

 

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