Washington: The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has updated its commercial crew contract with Boeing to allow the US-based aerospace company to bring three people to the International Space Station (ISS) that will remain there up to six months of a planned two-week trip.
The measure is considered to quickly end the dependence on Russian Soyuz flights to transport astronauts to the ISS since NASA's Soyuz contract ends in 2019.
"NASA has updated its Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) has a contract with Boeing, which provides flexibility in its commercial flight tests, "the US space agency said Friday.
Boeing, one of the agency's two business partners (the other being SpaceX), approached NASA last year and proposed adding a third crew member in its Crew Flight Test (CFT) to the ISS.
"The change includes the ability to extend the Boeing CFT from approximately two weeks to up to six months, as well as training and mission support for a third crew member. flight tests without crew and with crew, "said NASA.
Adding a third crew member to the Boeing flight test, scheduled for later this year, could offer NASA an additional opportunity to the orbiting lab.
"This contract modification provides NASA with additional programming space if necessary," said William Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator, NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission.
"We value Boeinga's willingness to evolve flight to ensure we have continuous access to space for our astronauts." Commercial space transportation to low Earth orbit from the US soil is critical for the agency and the nation, he added.
The flight schedules of the current commercial crew provide approximately six months of margin to begin regular crew rotation missions after certification. ISS.
"Converting a test flight into more than one operational mission needs a careful review by the technical community," said Gerstenmaier.
For example, the spacecraft's ability to withstand additional time still needs to be reviewed. 19659002] "Modifying the contract now allows NASA and Boeing to adapt the duration to balance the needs of the mission with the capabilities of the vehicle and the crew," NASA said.
This would not be the first time that NASA has extended the range of test flights.
NASA had SpaceX transport cargo on its commercial cargo demonstration flight to the space station under the commercial orbital transport services (COTS) initiative in 2012, which was not part of the final agreement.
Boeing and SpaceX plan to fly unmanned test missions to the space station this year before test flights with a crew on board.
After each company's test flights, NASA will evaluate the flight operation in order to certify the systems and begin crew rotation missions after certification.