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NASA Prepares for Plan B if Commercial Space Taxis Stall

Agency weighs their options to use own test flights to ferry staff to international space station.

NASA is working on a fallback plan in case new commercial vehicles hit further delays in their schedule to begin ferrying U.S. astronauts into orbit. Boeing Co. and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) are supposed to start routinely transporting crews to the international space station next year. But the operation of these commercial space taxis is already years behind schedule, and it looks like these latest deadlines will also not be met. As a result, NASA is considering turning planned test flights of new crew vehicles to the station into modified operational missions to ensure continuous U.S presence on board the International Space Space. NASA has contracts to use Russian rockets and capsules to transport astronauts to and from the space station through late 2019. If Boeing and SpaceX aren’t ready to take over the job that year, NASA will be stuck, with no way to get its crews up there without a contingency plan. No final decisions have been made, but preliminary discussions have started inside NASA, as well as with industry officials, about pushing the test flights into 2019 or later. The worst case would be “downsizing” the number of U.S. astronauts on board the space station as a temporary stopgap measure.

Read the full story at The Wall Street Journal