The Taxi Service: Soyuz seats to the ISS
Why are we in this mess? A brief history
The policy Part 1
Obama kills the Space Shuttle —> Commercial Crew to bring US Astronauts to the ISS.
Our Russian partners will taxi our passengers from Russia in the In-term for a fee. The US has paid hundred of millions of tax dollars to purchase these seats into 2017.
The USA has an agreement with some of the Partners in the ISS program to provide Seats (taxi seats) to the ISS in trade for services those countries provide in support of the ISS.
The Partners refer to the International Space Station Partners agreement set up under the Clinton administration.
The ISS agreement was basically setup while the Space Shuttle was operational, with no thought about the future, or any real changes now made under the Obama administration. The US is obligated to transport other members of the international partnership that is the ISS.
This worked very well while the shuttle was launching. The US was building the space station. Training, and transporting the EU or Jaxa astronauts wasn’t that much of a cost in trade for the services these member nations provided for the ISS.
When the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster happened February 1, 2003 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Shuttle_Columbia_disaster The US relied on our Russian partnership for transport keeping the ISS alive while still under construction.
George Bush make the call to replace the Shuttle after the investigation. The Constellation program was begun. One new small program also started to allow Commercial services assist and possibly lower the ISS operation costs.
The Obama administration comes in, and changes everything George Bush started. This will be expanded on in further posts.
The new basic Obama plan became to finish building the ISS, and kill off the Shuttle program. Turn the ISS into a “complete”, and operational status rather than under construction. Therefore ISS would be focused on “Science” .
The space shuttle was very expensive, but could launch to LEO very large payloads, supplies and return them to earth. The real gamble became shutting down the shuttle without an operational service for supplies, and crew. The Obama administration took the small “commercial” program started by George Bush and made it policy.
The supply shipments would be contracted out to this new program called in general “Commercial”. It’s using Contractors to replace NASA rockets. They bring up (up mass) all the supplies to operate the ISS along with replacement parts. Another feature of this new program, the return (down mass) of the completed sciences, along with ISS parts to be sent back to earth for for repair etc.
Couple of major problems in this new policy bet.
This new “Commercial” was not fully tested, or even operational when the Shuttle was shut down. Frankly the program is a failure. The ISS to this date has not adjusted to the massive loss of the cargo the Shuttle service could handle. More on this in another post.
The second failure in the new Obama policy, was to start up a new US taxi service based on the Commercial Cargo plan. This would quickly transfer responsibility, and costs to these new contractors. In the in term, US policy would be to purchase seats from Russia to the ISS aboard Russian Soyuz rockets.
These taxi costs in the early days would be like in the high 50-60 million dollar range. In 2014 we are paying somewhere in the range of 71 million dollars for each astronaut taxied to the ISS on a Russian Soyuz. Remember, we must also pay for the members of other nations per the ISS agreement.
Now we come to several items of note that most Americans would find an offensive use of their taxpayer dollars.
The Russian language has become the official language needed to work within this taxi service.
US and other international astronauts must adhere to Russian launch rules, and general customs.
One of these customs is really offensive. US astronauts stand at the altar of Lenin for the Press. These pics were taken from one of the Soyuz pre launch videos.
One rule setup under the Clinton Administration written into in the ISS contract that ONLY Russian individuals can bring guns up in the Soyuz to the ISS. Yes several guns are in the hands of the Russians.