NASA is considering a convoluted arrangement to reserve five more seats on Russian Soyuz capsules heading to and from the International Space Station, with the Boeing Co. as the middleman.
The plan to reserve more trips to orbit would give NASA additional breathing room as it waits for Boeing and SpaceX to complete the development of their commercial space taxis.
The first crewed test flights of those space taxis aren’t scheduled to occur until 2018. And in a procurement notice issued today, NASA acknowledged that they are “not expected to begin fully operational flights to the ISS until 2019.”
NASA has made a limited number of reservations on Soyuz craft in 2018, at a cost of more than $80 million per seat. But there’s not much of a margin to deal with further delays in the commercial crew schedule.
By a strange set of circumstances, Boeing could help fill the gap, even if its own CST-100 Starliner spacecraft isn’t yet ready to fly.