The Government Accountability Office has urged NASA to develop a contingency plan for U.S. operations at the International Space Station beyond 2018 as the contractors on the Commercial Crew Program are not able to meet certification requirements this year.
The report noted the delay could potentially impact NASA’s efforts to establish a domestic capability to transport U.S. astronauts to and from ISS before an existing crew transportation contract with Russia’s space agency expires in 2019.
The companies received their respective $4.2 billion and $2.6 billion contracts in 2014 to develop the CST-100 and Dragon space capsules as potential alternatives to Russia’s Soyuz.
GAO added the schedule pressure arises from the average three-year contracting process NASA would need to undergo if there is a need to purchase seats on the Soyuz for the U.S. space crew.
NASA concurred with the recommendation for a contingency plan that would ensure continued U.S. presence aboard the space station in case of further delay in the Commercial Crew Program amid other risks that the contractors face and the need for visibility into their activities.