- Congress held a hearing on Wednesday to address NASA’s program to build new spaceships to reach the International Space Station.
- Boeing and SpaceX, the two contractors in the program, are experiencing delays due to NASA’s stringent safety requirements.
- The only means of reaching the ISS — Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft — may not be able to fly astronauts after 2019.
- This could mean astronauts will soon have no way to get to and from NASA’s $100-billion investment in the sky.
NASA has spent the better part of 20 years and $100 billion working on the International Space Station.
But in just a couple of years, astronauts may have no way to get to and from the US space agency’s football-field-size laboratory in the sky, according to testimonies government officials gave on Wednesday.
The problem is a lack of available spaceships, both foreign and domestic.
NASA contracted Boeing and SpaceX to build a safer and more cost-effective replacement for the space shuttle, which was retired in July 2011. The original contracts called for certification and regular flights with astronauts by the end of 2017, but that didn’t happen.
To fill the gap while the companies developed their spaceships, NASA purchased seats aboard Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft. Delays by Boeing and SpaceX prompted the space agency to purchase more seats — at exorbitant prices — but it appears even that option will soon expire.
“Soyuz capability is available through the fall of 2019,” William Gerstenmaier, the head of NASA’s human exploration and operations directorate, said during a House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology hearing. He added: “The manufacturing time of a Soyuz, of approximately three years, will not allow additional Soyuz to be manufactured.”