An agency advisory board has recommended that NASA begin developing plans to deal with a reduced International Space Station crew. The recommendations are a result of delays in the development of the SpaceX and Boeing commercial crew transports.
“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,” said Thomas Stafford, ISS Advisory Committee chairman.
Currently, SpaceX and Boeing hope to begin flight testing their respective crew transports later this year. However, many believe that the companies development schedules are unachievable. As a result, a deadline of late 2019 for at least one of the transports to begin operations seems unlikely.
With this in mind, Stafford recommended that NASA and its ISS partners begin planning how to operate the station with a reduced crew. One such strategy being considered is training Russian cosmonauts to operate key systems in the U.S. Operating Segment (USOS) module of the International Space Station (ISS).
With the future of the ISS unclear, it will be vital that NASA and its partners navigate the next few years with as few disruptions to station operations as possible.