NASA officials have said the agency does not have plans to extend its contract with the Russian space agency to transport U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station in 2019 through the Russian-built Soyuz crew capsules, Spaceflight Now reported Thursday.
Stephen Clark writes NASA bought six round-trip seats for U.S. astronauts on the Soyuz spacecraft under a $490 million agreement with Roscosmos in 2015 with the last launch seats to expire by the end of 2018.
Bill Gerstenmaier, head of the human exploration and operations directorate at NASA, told the publication the space agency “may have actually crossed the deadline“ to purchase components and other parts for new Soyuz spacecraft.
“There is still sufficient overlap, and we could still do things during the overlap period,“ Gerstenmaier added.
NASA awarded a $4.2 billion contract to Boeing and a $2.6 billion contract to SpaceX in September 2014 to build commercial capsules designed to transport crews and cargo to the ISS under the agency's Commercial Crew Transportation Capability program.
Boeing told Spaceflight Now the company's CST-100 Starliner space capsule is scheduled to perform its initial crewed test flight in August 2018, while SpaceX said it expects its Crew Dragon spacecraft to carry out its first crew flight test by the end of 2017.
The report added that technical issues might delay Boeing's and SpaceX's plans to get astronauts to the space laboratory by early 2019.