Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator of human exploration and operations at NASA, has said the agency is considering crew rotation missions as one option to address a schedule gap that may arise if Commercial Crew Program contractors experience spacecraft certification delays, SpaceNews reported Friday.
He told SpaceNews in an interview that NASA will discuss with Boeing and SpaceX about the possibility of using planned crewed test flights under the program should vehicles the companies are developing do not receive certification by fall of 2019 to transport astronauts to the International Space Station.
“Those test flights might be able to be extended a little bit, fly a little bit longer, maybe fly a little bit of crew, and they could be kind of an operational mission,” Gerstenmaier added.
Boeing and SpaceX were awarded CCP contracts worth up to $6.8 billion in September 2014 to develop space capsules for human and cargo transportation to ISS.
NASA issued the contracts in a push to maintain uninterrupted access to the space station after the seats the agency has contracted for on Russian Soyuz spacecraft expire in 2019.
The agency previously expected to certify Boeing’s CST-100 and SpaceX’s Dragon at the end of 2017, the report noted.
Christina Chaplain, director of acquisition and sourcing management at the Government Accountability Office, told House lawmakers at a meeting held in January that NASA now predicts that SpaceX will receive certification in December 2019 and Boeing in February 2020.