Space News reports that a key NASA advisory committee wants the space agency to come up with contingency plans to operate the International Space Station on a reduced U.S. crew should further delays occur in the commercial crew program.
At a May 14 meeting of the ISS Advisory Committee, its chairman, Thomas Stafford, said that NASA should consider training Russian cosmonauts on key systems in what’s known as the U.S. Operating Segment (USOS) portion of the ISS, which includes elements from the U.S., Europe, Japan and Canada, in the event extended commercial crew development delays reduce the size of the station’s crew.
“For years, we have observed delays after delays in the development, flight test and qualification milestones in commercial crew, and therefore we believe the current schedule is optimistic,” Stafford said of schedules that call for flight tests of commercial crew vehicles in the latter half of 2018.
His committee recommended that NASA and the other ISS partners should plan for ways to operate the station with a reduced crew if commercial crew vehicles aren’t ready to enter service by the fall of 2019.
“Given these schedule risks, we recommend the partnership pursue plans to protect for a minimum crew capability to ensure ISS viability during the flight development phase,” he said. “NASA’s biggest priority is maintaining the U.S. presence on the ISS in case the commercial crew launch dates slip.”