NASA Will Not Use Russian Progress Vehicle Despite Waiver

Article written: 7 Oct , 2008
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
by

[/caption]This may come as a surprise, but then again, it might not. Despite the recently signed US Congressional waiver of the Iran-North Korea-Syria Nonproliferation Act, allowing NASA to use the Russian Progress vehicle to send US supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) after Shuttle decommissioning in 2010, NASA has said that they will seek out US-based commercial launch options instead. NASA has lobbied the US government for months to allow them to continue using Russia’s launch capabilities, but since the recent launch success of US-based Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) Falcon 1 rocket on September 28th, hopes are high that this option will stop NASA’s dependence on Russia…

The Iran-North Korea-Syria Nonproliferation Act (INKSNA) basically prevents entities in the US from doing business with Russia if Russia is doing business with Iran, North Korea or Syria to further their development of nuclear technology. However, one such US “entity” is NASA and the space agency has been working with Russia’s space program since the Act was signed in 2000 (even though it is known that Russia has been providing technology to Iran to pursue their nuclear ambitions). NASA has been able to do this by having the INKSNA waived by Congress. The current waiver was valid until 2011, so NASA has been pursuing a waiver extension to prevent the US from being barred from access to space after Shuttle retirement in 2011.

Although they are now legally entitled, NASA has now said that it will not require the use of the Russian Progress supply ships to deliver US supplies to the station, even after the successful signing of a waiver extension (until 2016) last week.

NASA’s policy has not changed,” NASA spokesman David Steitz said last Thursday (October 2nd). “NASA will rely on U.S. commercial cargo services to resupply ISS following retirement of the shuttle, and does not intend to purchase Progress cargo services after 2011.”

The face of future NASA launches? The SpaceX Falcon 1 blasts off (SpaceX)This decision comes after the successful launch of the first ever commercial space vehicle on September 28th. SpaceX will have been relieved the fourth flight of the Falcon 1 rocket system operated flawlessly, proving to NASA that a dummy payload can be lifted into orbit by a private company. The previous flight (Flight 3, on August 2nd) suffered a stage separation anomaly, which caused the loss of two NASA satellite systems, NanoSail-D (a prototype solar sail) and PRESat (mini-laboratory to carry out tests on yeast cells).

Although NASA has announced there are no plans to use the Russian Progress spaceship beyond 2011, it is still an option if required. Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX is not concerned about NASA opting to use Progress over a US company’s launch system. “I think it’s probably a good thing NASA’s hands aren’t tied there. It’s possible we may lose a few flights to the Russians but we are not going to lose more than that. There is no way Congress would tolerate sending millions of dollars to the Russians rather than to a U.S. company and keeping that money domestic,” he said. Regardless of which political party is voted into government in November, Musk pointed out that, “…neither [U.S. political party] likes sending money overseas if there’s a U.S. supplier.”

According to today’s news release, the waiver still allows the use of the Russian Soyuz system (for manned missions to the ISS), which is fortunate as there is no other US manned option available…

Source: Space.com


20 Responses

  1. Vanamonde says

    Nothing against the great nation of Russia. But if NASA can keep our tax dollars in U.S. hands and help lower the trade deficit, then I say, Right on, Right ON!

    Buy American!

  2. Adam says

    A big hell yeah. i must say.

  3. Bill says

    Shortsighted. Both the Orion and Dragon are not sure bets. Prudence would dictate that we keep this option open. The Russians are our principal partners in ISS. Worst case, we wind up with no supply capability for a while and that’s not good. This has a negligible impact on the trade deficit.

  4. NoAstronomer says

    Also the Russian Soyuz vehicles will still be needed for crew rotations.

  5. Sam says

    So much for the “international” space station. I knew we human beasties couldn’t keep it together for too long. We might band together long enough to defend Earth from an other worldly attack but we would soon be back to our bad mouthing and beating up on each other ways just like all the rest of the dominating natural selection animals on the planet.

  6. Joe Shobe says

    Bill, its got to be a win-win if we’re keeping both options open. Its not that its putting a dent in the trade deficit, but that if we have the capability, we’ll fund our commercialization of space before we pay another government for commercial services.

    I think the message is clear: Thanks congress for enabling us to work with Russia as a fallback, but, Russia, guess what, our private sector has muscled up to the challenge and is becoming as capable as any government’s space program.

    This will also go a long way to paving the path for more commercial efforts to get into space. I want a room at the Hilton – in orbit – by 2020.

  7. Mike says

    Sam, no need to beat up on those who have ethical standards about international partners. You may regard Putin as “our SOB”, but I, and millions of others, do not by any stretch of the imagination. We will do business with the Russians if we have to but by no means should they be considered our first choice of suppliers or partners. The ISS can still be ‘international’ without the Russians involved if need be. The Japanese, Europeans, Canadians, and others are involved, and watch out for India, and other nations.

    Internationalism in and of itself is not a ‘good’ thing if we sacrifice our ethics, values, and moral self-respect in the process.

  8. Member
    Gerald, Walnut Creek, CA says

    Anybody want to lay odds on the Shuttle still flying in 2011? 2012? 2013?

    There is no way NASA will shut down the Shuttle program by the end of 2010.

  9. Michael P. says

    Joe Shobe:

    Please note this article is about unmanned Progress supply vehicles not being bought by NASA. Soyuz vehicles will still be used. Partly because COTS is unlikely to provide an alternative. Orbital found they could put at most 2 astronauts on Taurus II, making it useless for ISS crew transport. And Space X, while apparently confident in their capsule’s ability to transport crews, may not accomplish that for quite some time at best.

  10. Astrofiend says

    “…our private sector has muscled up to the challenge and is becoming as capable as any government’s space program.”

    Not to cast dispersions upon you all, but although US private industry may have the capability to launch to orbit, do we honestly think that the SpaceX machine has anywhere near the proven reliability of the Russian ride to space? Comparing SpaceX’s meager technology to a government sponsored program anywhere in the world is laughable.

    The article states “…since the recent launch success of US-based Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) Falcon 1 rocket on September 28th, hopes are high that this option will stop NASA’s dependence on Russia…”

    This is rapidly followed by:

    “The previous flight (Flight 3, on August 2nd) suffered a stage separation anomaly, which caused the loss of two NASA satellite systems, NanoSail-D (a prototype solar sail) and PRESat (mini-laboratory to carry out tests on yeast cells).”

    In a previous article (linked to from this article), we have the quote:

    “SpaceX’s first three attempts to launch the Falcon 1 all failed, with different problems occurring on each try. ”

    So let me get this straight – There has been ONE launch success recently, on the back of a very serious failure, in which expensive satellites were lost, and two other failures before that. Are the US seriously going to risk important payloads being lofted with technology that currently has a failure rate of 75%, in comparison with the mature Russian system, that has been in steady operation in one form or another since 1978?

    Get real. I’m not saying it’s not move in the right direction. Just that they would need to get their success rate to maybe 95% before they should even be considered as an option.

  11. Maxwell says

    First of all the waiver is for NASA to circumvent our standing foreign policy. Which is to say we’re not supposed to be doing business with nations that do business in places we don’t like (Iran).

    All things being equal we should either have changed that policy or refused to do business with the Russians entirely.
    The second best option is to use them in a pinch but switch off as soon as possible to native launch systems. That would mean the moment Falcon proves viable (like say, right now) our plans should include buying launch services from them
    …which was the point of COTS.
    The money spent on falcon helps Spacex advance their own capabilities. Which gives us an entirely new launch system and expands private sector operations in space.

    Soyuz is not flawless and remaining attached to the Russians for spaceflight puts our own goals at extreme risk every time they have a fit or invade Europe.
    Blowing up a cargo ship or three with a cots launch system is a minor inconvenience in comparison.

  12. dileep says

    Good. Atleast the Americans (pretends as the world dominator, the cruke minded) realise that you are having some limitations. go and beg to russia for their capabilities. At least the Americans should appologise to them for their CIA activities in USSR to split them.

  13. Kevin M. says

    “We have chosen wisely…”

  14. Frank Glover says

    “Anybody want to lay odds on the Shuttle still flying in 2011? 2012? 2013?

    There is no way NASA will shut down the Shuttle program by the end of 2010”

    NASA has already burnt that bridge behind itself. The manufacturers of the assorted spares for maintenance no longer have contracts and are re-tooling for other things. And soon, the pads will be re-built for Ares/Orion, just as conversion from Saturn to Shuttle began near the end of Apollo.

    The farther you get down that path, the MORE it would cost to try to restore the capability.

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  17. Adam says

    In all honesty, the breaking apart of the space programs into their separate endeavours actually allows more technology to be developed in the process.

    When things start getting streamlined and rolled into big companies (like Lockheed-Martin, BAC, Airbus etc etc) then you lose the inter-competitiveness of the industry that brings about big changes in the first place.

    We never saw a leap forward in technology like during WWII, the space race, and the cold war. Now that all of those little companies have formed conglomerates, things have kind of stagnated.

    I for one would love to see more international growth right now first in this sector, so that we can perhaps grow as a people technologically.

    With the Indians, Iranians, Chinese, Russians, Americans, and ESA all vying for airtime, I’m looking forward to seeing how much things advance over the next 30 years.

    Just wait ’til the Koreans, Japanese, Brasilians and Canadians start flying, and when the ESA breaks apart and you have Britain, Germany, France and Sweden all exploding in the Aerospace field, the changes will be immense!

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