International Space Station is Racing the Clock After Soyuz Failure

Today’s failed Soyuz launch thankfully resulted in no casualties, but the fate of the International Space Station (ISS) is now in question.

Just two minutes after liftoff, the crew of the Soyuz MS-10 found themselves in a situation that every astronaut since the beginning of the manned space program has trained for, but very few have ever had to face: a failure during launch. Today the crew of two, Russian Aleksey Ovchinin and American Nick Hague, were forced to make a ballistic re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere; a wild ride that put them through higher G forces than expected and dropped the vehicle approximately 430 km from the launch site in Baikonur. Both men walked away from the event unharmed, but while the ordeal is over for them, it’s just beginning for the crew of the ISS.

Until a full investigation can be completed by Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency, the Soyuz rocket is grounded. This is standard procedure, as they obviously don’t want to launch another rocket and risk encountering the same issue. But as the Soyuz is currently the only way we have to get humans into space, this means new crew can’t be sent to the ISS until Roscosmos is confident the issue has been identified and resolved.

Soyuz MS-11, which would have brought up three new crew members to relieve those already on the Station, was scheduled for liftoff on December 20th. While not yet officially confirmed, that mission is almost certainly not going to be launching as scheduled. Two months is simply not long enough to conduct an investigation into such a major event when human lives are on the line.

The failure of Soyuz MS-10 has started a domino effect which will deprive the ISS of the five crew members which were scheduled to be aboard by the end of 2018. To make matters worse, the three current crew members must return to Earth before the end of the year as well. NASA and Roscosmos will now need to make an unprecedented decision which could lead to abandoning the International Space Station; the first time it would be left unmanned since the Expedition 1 mission arrived in November 2000.

An Expiring Ticket

Soyuz spacecraft docked with ISS

ISS crews are rotated out on a six month schedule because that’s about how long a Soyuz capsule can remain viable in orbit. It has a design life of only 215 days, any longer than that and the vehicle’s corrosive propellants will degrade their tanks. Current ISS crew members Sergey Prokopyev, Alexander Gerst, and Serena M. Auñón-Chancellor arrived at the station in June on Soyuz MS-09, so the clock has nearly run out for their spacecraft.

If Soyuz MS-09 is left attached to the Station past its design life, it will become unusable. In the worst case, it could even start leaking propellant and endanger the Station. The crew would be forced to cut the spacecraft loose, leaving themselves stranded. This is an option that simply will not be considered by either NASA or Roscosmos. Under no circumstances will either agency intentionally leave three humans in space with no way to bring them home.

If nothing changes, the current crew will therefore be forced to depart before their only ride home literally eats itself. This would leave the Station unmanned until Soyuz can be flown again and bring a new crew. As there’s no telling when that might be, this would be a crushing blow to ISS operations. It could potentially start another domino effect of delaying future missions and experiments, such as the unmanned test flight of SpaceX’s new Dragon capsule which is currently slated to arrive at the Station in April.

Sending an Unmanned Lifeboat

There are a few potential alternatives to leaving the ISS without a crew for the first time in nearly 20 years, but given the risk-adverse nature of human spaceflight, it seems unlikely NASA or Roscosmos will want to tempt fate on any of them. If this were a Hollywood film, we might see the President order SpaceX to rush around the clock to finish their new Dragon capsule in time to perform a daring rescue, but in reality it simply isn’t worth the risk to human life. The ISS will survive this mishap, even if it means putting a pause on the program for a few months.

Salyut 6 with docked Soyuz and Progress spacecraft
Salyut 6 with docked Soyuz and Progress spacecraft. (fair use image)

There is however at least one contingency plan which has historic precedent. Roscosmos could attempt to launch the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft on December 20th as originally planned, but without the crew. If the booster fails again, at worst they will have only lost the hardware and no human life. But if it survives the trip into space, it could be remotely guided to the ISS, and serve as the crew’s new return vehicle. This would allow them to remain aboard the Station for another six months, hopefully enough time to complete the accident investigation and resume normal launches.

This is precisely what happened in 1979 aboard the Salyut 6 space station. When Soyuz 33 suffered an engine failure before docking with the orbiting outpost, it not only deprived the Salyut 6 crew of additional members, but called into question the reliability of their own identical spacecraft. No longer sure they had a safe return vehicle, the crew was forced to remain in orbit until the remotely controlled Soyuz 34 could be sent to the station as a lifeboat. The crew left Salyut 6 aboard Soyuz 34 after commanding their original spacecraft to re-enter the atmosphere by remote control. Ultimately both spacecraft landed safely, with no human or material loss.

While it was never needed, a similar contingency plan was put into place after the loss of Space Shuttle Columbia. It would have allowed the crew of a damaged Shuttle to remain on the ISS until a new Shuttle could be sent up to get them. Their original Shuttle would then attempt an unmanned landing under remote control in an effort to save the expensive reusable spacecraft with no risk to its human occupants.

Uncertain Future

It’s exceptionally difficult to believe Roscosmos could rush through an incident investigation before the scheduled December 20th launch of Soyuz MS-11, even if the fault is found to be operational and not with the rocket itself. When the unmanned Proton-M rocket was lost in 2013 due to an improperly installed angular velocity sensor, it still look three months for the investigation to clear the rocket for its next flight. Even if the Russian government was content with a truncated investigation, Soyuz MS-11 will have an American and Canadian aboard, so NASA and CSA would surely want time to review the findings themselves.

If the International Space Station is evacuated, it will break the continuous human presence in space we’ve maintained since the dawn of the 21st century. If on the other hand a solution can be devised which allows the Station to remained crewed, it will be the kind of last-minute engineering and international collaboration we rarely see outside of science fiction. No matter what happens next, we’ll be watching history be made.

120 thoughts on “International Space Station is Racing the Clock After Soyuz Failure

  1. So, layman here… But why can’t SpaceX use a Dragon to deliver new propellant tanks or even a space to ground evacuation vehicle or any other solution on the board? Is SpaceX not part of the potential solutions providers?

    1. Dragon unlike Dragon 2 which is WIP does not have docking apparatus. It’s berthed not docked, on arrival robot arm captures it and move it to the port where Dragon becomes basically additional module of the station and it can’t un-berth itself. There are no pusher springs AFAIK.

      Moreover life-support on Dragon would need to be beefed-up, crash/land chairs installed… which would be even much more dangerous than speeding up Dragon 2 development.

      1. Saying that Crew Dragon (aka Dragon 2) is a WIP is a bit misleading. DM1 is ready to fly (you can ignore ASAP’s complaints, they’re making much ado about nothing now and conveniently ignoring bigger issues with Orion), but it’s not fully equipped for real humans like DM2 will be, since it wasn’t expected to fly real humans. DM2 is going to be a bit different from DM1 because of this but mostly the same, and the first operational non-demo flight may be yet slightly tweaked, but that’s not unusual in any way. The design is pretty much finalized – it just has to be tested in flight.

        As for Cargo Dragon, even if there was a mechanism to push the Cargo Dragon away from the ISS when un-berthed, the way CBM (Common Berthing Mechanism) berthing works is that there are bolts that actually lock the craft to the ISS are only accessible from the ISS side … so someone has to stay behind to un-berth the spacecraft.

        In theory, if everyone had suits, and you truly had no other option, and everyone was going to die anyways, you might have all but one get on a Dragon fitted with seats and life support, suited and strapped in, and the last person un berths it, heads for the airlock while ground control remote operates CanadArm2 to move Dragon away from ISS, the last person once out the airlock then would have to make their way in EVA to CanadaArm2 (which after releasing Dragon would be sent back towards them) and basically ride it out to Dragon, depress Dragon, open the hatch, climb from the arm to Dragon (keeping in mind the Dragon has been free floating and may have to use Dracos to maintain position), close hatch, repress Dragon, strap in, and you’re off.

        So simple!

        It would actually make for a possible-but-still-far-fetched hollywood movie plot.

        There’s a few problems : While Cargo Dragon likely can withstand vacuum it isn’t really meant for it, and as-is has no provisions to repressurize as it has almost zero life support (it has some basic life support to help with experiments but those are somewhat self contained too, it’s life support mostly consists of not getting too hot or cold, as opposed to actually providing fresh supply of oxygen). Second, Cargo Dragon has no seats, but that seems a relatively simple problem to solve. Just build a platform(s) that attach into the spacecraft same as the ISS racks would, with seats from Crew Dragon. You’d have to solve the life support the same way, bolting it in, etc. Of course the life support hardware is probably not ready to fly just yet, at least not full capacity – DM1 which is “ready to fly” is not really equipped to actually carry real humans just yet, since it didn’t need to. I don’t know how far behind the DM2 capsule is but it might not be ready in time. Possibly you could hodgepodge hardware from DM2 into DM1 but it seems like a bad idea. Of course you could probably just fly up some air tanks with enough air for X hours and some kind of hacky scuba tank to flight suit adapter, but …

        It’s too bad that DM2 isn’t ready because if DM2 was ready in time and you absolutely had to get people back (i.e., Soyuz is stopped flying due to the abort and something new is discovered with the existing spacecraft that prevents returning on it), then they could simply fly DM2 empty (well, with some cargo – spacesuits fitted for each of the crew on ISS) and dock, everyone dons the Crew Dragon flight suits, gets on board DM2, close hatches and away you go (since it can auto dock and undock, etc).

        1. EVA suit wouldn’t fit the hatch. You’d have to use the emergency depressurisation descent suit, possibly with bits of an EVA suit hacked onto it for life support, but likely therefore wouldn’t be able to move to the Canadarm. Formation flying the new ‘capsule’ to the airlock might give you a non-zero survival probability, but it would all be a bit bleak!

          1. Mental2k: Yes, for a movie this could be a nice story. But as the survival probability of movie actors in odd situations is much higher than for real astronauts it seems much better not to try this in reality.

    2. Replacing the propellant tanks on the Soyuz while in space is presumably something that’s never been considered, and the astronauts certainly haven’t been trained on it. It’s one of those things they might try if it was a life or death Apollo 13 scenario, but when they could just abandon the station before the tanks expire with no risk to human life that’s the option they will pick.

      As for some kind of stand-alone recovery vehicle being delivered to the station, that’s something NASA had always wanted to develop (and actually got very close to finishing), but it never made it into production.

      1. I don’t think the tanks are even removable. They haven’t done anything about this problem for years, instead just arranging flights so that no Soyuz is ever in space for too long. In a way this might be something the various space agencies actually quite like, since it’s a defence against any government cuts, “Oh no, we can’t delay the next mission, the Soyuz return craft just can’t wait that long!”.

        It does make you wonder why they can’t just line the tanks with Teflon or something, something unreactive. Obviously the valves too. Chemical plants must address worst problems than that all the time. There’s factories boiling fuming acids all day long working perfectly fine.

        1. That’s because Hackaday simply got that detail flat out wrong by repeating an old myth.

          The fuel is peroxide. While it CAN corrode over time, it will simply decompose first. Peroxide decomposes to oxygen and water. That’s it. They use it in the lander for attitude control, because it doesn’t leave toxic exhaust residue that becomes a risk at the landing site. Water and oxygen are perfectly fine for any crew or passengers, in case of exposure.

          Past about 200 days, decomposition of peroxide reaches a ratio where it risks the fuel supply. I’m sure there’s a safety margin built in, but that’s the basic deal… a tank of water and oxygen is much less useful as fuel than the original peroxide.

          The expiration date has little to do with tank corrosion and everything to do with fuel decomposition.

          1. The soyuz also uses N2O4 and UDMH, but perhaps not in the lander. I don’t know what parts of the whole vehicle are docked to the ISS.
            If it is only about degradation of the fuel then why not replace this?

    3. While corrosion of the tanks is a problem, it is NOT what causes the 200-ish day shelf life of the Soyuz on orbit. Instead it is the peroxide used for attitude control during reentry. The peroxide slowly decomposes into water and oxygen. Without enough, no attitude control and you burn up coming back in.

  2. My understanding is that, paperwork notwithstanding, a human being could climb into the current Dragon capsule and return to earth at any time there was one available…no known impediment beyond crew comfort. Musk said something of the sort after the first successful Dragon deployment to ISS.

    What’s holding up the deployment of the crewed Dragon is simply the myriad of certifications required to become ‘man rated.’ Science fiction, maybe….

      1. There hasn’t been one blow up yet. Including the one that exploded during launch, the Dragon survived all the way down to the surface where the sudden stop took care of it.

        A different software load could have even saved that capsule, and they now fly with software capable of saving the capsule.

        If it came down to dying in space or getting in a capsule not intended for human use I would be the first one through the hatch.

    1. Musk saying something is technically easy/doable is not something I would trust with my life. He tends to oversell (esp. timeline wise) and has little personal knowledge of how to make things safe.

      I mean, look at his microsub ideas during the flooded cave fiasco.

      (That said, none of that is his job.)

      1. It means you’ll be lucky to find enough of the three of them to scrape into a jar. But the urn will feature a TFT screen central entertainment suite, with live connection to your Netflix(tm) account. Heartwarming eulogies will be recorded as audio and backed-up on our servers (whether you like it or not). If you prefer not to be memorialised in this manner, what the fuck’s wrong with you, paedo guy?

  3. The Dragon 2 has been ready to fly and was delayed until January because of other flights with scientific goods and paperwork. Now that there won’t be enough crew to do the scientific work, it makes sense to move up the SpaceX launch.

    Dragon 2 and a Falcon 9 are sitting in Cape Canaveral ready to fly. It has been dropped from altitude for parachute test, vacuum tested, and extensively vetted. While the Dragon 2 has not had unmanned tests yet, the space shuttle never had an unmanned orbital test. They could send it to the ISS with cargo and seats in November and leave it up there as a lifeboat. No emergency readying needed.

    1. It’s not a specific lifeboat, it’s just the Soyuz that brought the crew up, and will carry them back down. There’s not a spare one docked (unless they send up an uncrewed one as mentioned in the article).

    1. This situation should have never occurred had our aerospace giants did their job and provided a replacement for the Shuttle over 20 years ago. Instead both failed miserably after wasting billions and having nothing to show for it and NASA having no backup plan was screwed. Heads should have rolled at NASA, Lockheed and Boeing over this embarrassment that by 1990 we lost the ability to even put up a Apollo style capsule or even design one to handle a 5 man ISS crew. Let alone create a emergency re-entry vehicle.

      NASA needs to be shut down or turned into a civilian aerospace version of DARPA. Get them out of the launch business and maintaining satellites and the space station. i would also defund Boeing and Lockheed.

      1. The heads that should roll are/were in your Senate/House. THEY cut the funding.

        The Challenger disaster was the direct result of the one Senators having to be bribed for his vote. The original plan for the SRBs would have had them built somewhere else, so they could be in one piece. Building them in his state to get him to vote for the budget, meant they had to be segmented. Thus the O-rings which failed.

        You have a government run by people with no knowledge of science or technology, or even economics, or health, or anything. As a result they are only interested in what is good for them. What will get them re-elected.

        All this has been known to the space industry from the outset. NASA had plans that would have prevented this situation. They have to get the money to implement the plans. Your government are so badly educated, that they can’t understand that if you spend the money up-front, you save in the long run.

        Rant over. :) NASA and Roscosmos will get it sorted. There are very smart people in both organisations.

          1. Maybe we should implement a new policy that states any politician who blocks funding for Nasa or forces them to compromise design should have to be the first test pilot.

    1. Just curious, what was your solution for getting those human beings out of the flooded cave? How many sleepless hours did you put in? In total, how many resources did you expend, divert or consume in proffering a solution? Asking for a friend…

      1. Personally, knowing I had nothing useful to offer, I shut the fsck up and didn’t use the fact I’m a billionaire celebrity to make my hairbrained ideas get heard by the people risking their lives who didn’t want my help.

        1. You know he directly asked the dude running the show if he should build the sub and that guy said “yes absolutely we are worried about the smallest kid”
          Like clearly at that point musk should have stopped building it because internet people know more than the dive team leader.

  4. The day the first ISS crew arrived, I told a work friend\, “Yesterday was the last day in human history that we were all confined to Earth.”

    Maybe I’ll have to find him and tell him I was wrong.

  5. Risk-averse, not risk-adverse. Just a friendly FYI, I hope I’m not being rude or anything.

    I can’t believe NASA has let it come to this. We have not a single craft capable of putting a person in a relatively easy, low-inclination LEO. The whole world is relying on a bunch of rusty old Soyuz. Great design, supremely proven, but still. We’ve really let go of the reins here. We’ve got all this astounding new tech these days, yet the actual going and doing that humans are so great at has been withering for decades. Are we just going to navel-gaze for the foreseeable future? Is “tech” now a euphemism for web apps and cell phones and various other plastic scraps of consumer garbage? The ISS is quite literally the last bastion of manned spaceflight, and it is but a tent pitched in our own backyard. We can’t let ourselves fail at this. This is such a fucking shame.

    1. Edison said, ~”I didn’t fail… I just found 137 things that didn’t work.” We haven’t failed, except to 1) not have backup, cuz if you ground backup when primary fails, it’s not really backup… 2) to see that there is no shame in not being in space for the next 6 months. Their loss of hazard pay could probably buy powdered milk for several dozen kids for 6 months. In fact, neat though space may be, I could use a pencil versus a pen that writes upside down… et al. I am not seeing much bang for my buck on the station. And unmanned foreys? So we have spotted a few new moons etc. Or maybe black holes, about which we can do nothing. I don’t care for the liftoff gasses being created. It’s just an overly expensive distraction. We have much to do ON EARTH for people, dying. Eh? But everyone focusses on 2 or 5???

      “This is such a fucking shame.”
      Maybe, This is such THE fucking SHAME…

      1. Manned spaceflight matters. The device you’re using to view this site owes a large part of its existence to the Apollo program; that advancement alone makes the whole effort worthwhile. Space exploration isn’t an expense, it’s an investment. All you who say it’s just a waste of time and that we should just spend that money on powdered milk, for God’s sake–it’s not either or. We should do both those things, stop making it out to be some inane false dichotomy. Hardly any of our budget goes to this, and the return is staggering.

        One thing robotic probes don’t do is develop techniques for human habitats, survival, or medicine. We’re going to need that kind of thing. Learning how to create better, more efficient, self-sustaining habitats and infrastructure is of vital importance right now. And at the end of the day, what use is it merely keeping people from dying anyway–if they have nothing to live for and work towards together, no dreams? The intangible stuff matters too. It’s not irrational to foster those aspirations.

        The pencil thing isn’t a good idea because graphite gets into the air and shorts out electronics in zero gee. Most engineers know this. The upside-down pen was worth designing at the time.

        I can’t find hardly any results when I google “such the shame” in quotes. Could you direct me to some explanation of that? Is it perhaps colloquial somewhere?

        1. We’ve spend about $100 billion on the ISS, with very little to show for it.

          > One thing robotic probes don’t do is develop techniques for human habitats, survival, or medicine.

          We don’t need those. There’s absolutely no good reasons for humans to go into space.

        2. NASA didn’t develop nor commission the design of the space pen – it was developed independently by Fisher. The idea that there are only two kinds of writing instruments is also wrong as there are also (at least) fountain pens and felt-tip pens, both of which should be possible to use in zero gravity. Felt-tip pens have actually been used in such an environment.

          Developing techniques for human survival seems premature when we still can’t provide those kinds of habitats on earth. Those techniques and innovations can be done and tested on earth with a much lower cost.

      2. BillSF9c says:
        “In fact, neat though space may be, I could use a pencil versus a pen that writes upside down… et al. I am not seeing much bang for my buck on the station. And unmanned foreys? So we have spotted a few new moons etc. Or maybe black holes, about which we can do nothing. I don’t care for the liftoff gasses being created.”

        FWIW, a pencil in space that can produce electrically-conductive graphite dust is a less-than-good idea. For those who believe the legend about NASA spending millions for a space pen, education is here:
        https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/the-write-stuff/

        And the best response to those who think that money invested in manned space travel is wasted… supposedly was stated by Michael Faraday (or Ben Franklin) when a woman (the queen or a paramour) asked “Of what use is this electricity (or other newly-investigated phenomenon)?: “Madam, of what use is a baby?”

      3. If you want to complain about wasted money that could be better spent, shaving a few percent off the budget of the US Military could simultaneously provide free education, free healthcare, and feed and home the homeless.

        But war is far more important than all that, free public services is for communists.

        1. If the US leaves the ISS, the Russians could change there mind and say thank you for the whole station.
          If the Russians leave the ISS first, the US could change there mind and say thank you for the whole station (I’m not sure if the US can raise the ISS orbit and they will need there own crew transport too.)
          You could put some sensitive equipment in a module and de-orbit that but you can’t dismantle the whole station before leaving. Inviting the Russians into a new space-station is really to only way the get out of the ISS, as it should be.

          1. I don’t think the ISS is the right place to have knock-down drag-out fist fights about who gets to fly the thing. If you really want to think that way, at least be glad of the mixed crews going up in each capsule. Otherwise whichever country could shoot them out of the sky on the way up.

    2. “I can’t believe NASA has let it come to this. We have not a single craft capable of putting a person in a relatively easy, low-inclination LEO. ”

      That is in the past, I can believe it, with all the budget cuts over the decades and the inter-agency squabbling over design criteria and etc.
      They are currently working on a reusable spacecraft (Orion) and there are the commercial ventures (SpaceX et al)
      building alternative solutions. NASA is taking the (I feel, necessary) time to build Orion properly, not throw huge amounts of money at a problem like they did back in the 1960’s.
      NASA’s next big goal is getting people to and from Mars. The margin for error is far more critical than Apollo and every lesson/mistake from the past is being taken into consideration to prevent any repeats as well as contingencies for unseen problems.

    1. You still have to do maintenance…Orbital maintenance(even 400km above the surface, there’s still drag from the atmosphere…very little, but it’s there) …that needs propellant…try guessing what supplies it.
      Yep, a Progress-MS, which launches on same rocket as the Soyuz, which is now grounded until they figure out why the booster smacked into the main rocket, instead of cleanly separating like the others did for literally over a hundred times…

  6. As I understood it, the Soyuz will only lose attitude control after two months due to the hydrogen peroxide going “bad”. It should still be able to do a ballistic reentry without that so in an emergency they can still bail.

    But until that emergency the crew can hold out for much longer and the resupply missions will still take place. Just plan to replace the escape Soyuz after the current crew is relieved. Could even be a crew dragon, part of the unmanned tests. (okay perhaps that is a bit risky!)

      1. For its main engines, yes. But for the attitude control engines it uses hydrogen peroxide which slowly turns to water which is pretty useless as a fuel. Its the peroxide that sets the maximum stay of the craft to 6 months. After that re-entry will be a bit of a rough ride.

      2. hydrazine and what? hydrogen peroxide and what? Don’t you need both a reductant and an oxidant? For instance, hydrazine with hydrogen peroxide (or liquid oxygen), kerosene with liquid oxygen (or hydrogen peroxide).

          1. Unlike hydrazene hydrogene peroxide is non toxic which is why they use it in the decent module thrusters.
            Oh and hydrazene is often used by itself as a mono propellant on satellites and space probes in fact Areojet has an extensive line of mono propellant H2N2 engines.

  7. So yada yada MTCR China non-compliant…
    But the Chinese have a man rated launch system which borrows from but is not Soyuz; I bet you could buy a one off or more off the shelf and they would launch it for you too.
    I love Russians, they have one of the best do anything with almost no resources cultures I know, but politically it seems that China makes a better of two less than favourable partners for the US and its world goals at this point.
    I cant believe the US has let the mess of replacing the Shuttle stretch past 30 years(Challenger was in ’86) without already having a system ready to go.

    1. I hope you’re kidding about “no resources” in Russia.
      1. It’s the biggest country in the world, they have ALL kind of resources.
      2. Military and space are #1 and #2 priorities for Russia. Even when the population eats dirt those two industries have everything they need.

    1. In theory yes but it would take longer then fixing the issues with the Soyuz rocket besides cargo is not the problem they also have Dragon,Cygnus,and the HTV.
      The problem is crew transport so can Soyuz be launched on a different rocket.
      I think NASA should not have retired the Shuttle until a second vehicle was ready or just fast tracked Orion on the EELVs early in that program or at the very least made a deal to be able to launch the Soyuz capsule on a US rocket.

  8. “the vehicle’s corrosive propellants will degrade their tanks. ”

    FALSE. The limited shelf life of the propellant itself is the problem! The hydrogen peroxide decomposes into less reactive water.

  9. Let’s understand this. The USA has a “Space Force” but does not have a launch capability. For that we have been depending on our Russian Friends. What else could go wrong here?

    1. The Space Force is just something they gave President Combover to stop him from staring fixedly at The Red Button for five minutes. It’s not supposed to actually do anything. The equipment designs were by Mattel.

  10. A quick quiz:
    1. What president made the main NASA goal monitoring climate change and “Muslim outreach”?
    2. What president reversed those policies?

    Yes, NASA sucks at the moment, but there are good reasons for that. And soon NASA will be doing much better. SpaceX is the answer.

    1. The blame for us not having a vehicle that can reach ISS rests on the Bush administration.
      Specifically Mike Griffin,Scott Horowitz,and Richard Shelby.
      Mike Griffin threw out the original Spiral development plan that was to have a competition for the CEV and a staged development starting with vehicle that could travel to LEO follow by a lunar, and then Mars architecture.
      This is why Boeing was able to come up with Starliner on short noticed it was their old CEV proposal.
      The other mistake was insistence on Ares I vs crew rating an existing rocket much of the pressure for this came from Senator Shelby.
      Scott Horowitz held a held a senior executive position at ATK and wanted the company to get the contract and did a smear campaign to make the EELVs look unsafe when in reality both Atlas V and the Delta IV were inherently safer than Ares I and the Soyuz rocket.
      It was found air starting the SSME would be too difficult so they went with the J-2X this caused a drop in Ares I’s performance that required a major redesign of Orion, Then an issue was found with vibration of the rocket was in tune with the thrust oscillation which drove still more redesigns of the rocket and spacecraft.
      This meant Altair had to do more of the work which meant a larger EDS and Ares V ending up larger.
      it was then found the ablative chambered RS-68 would not survive in the thermal environment of the SRBs which meant a new regen variant had to be developed.
      They also dragged their feet on commercial cargo thinking it would take funding away from Ares so it was starved of money until the Obama administration.
      This resulted in Spacex nearly going bankrupt and the COTS contract saved the company.
      Now under the Obama administration they should have stayed with the Direct’s Jupiter proposal vs going with Ares V lite for SLS.

  11. Hackaday, please don’t even bother doing articles if you can’t resist oversensationalizing things. Nobody is “racing the clock”. A lot of the comments are even worse. You want the straight story? Go to NASASpaceflight.com .

    1. Is English not your first language maybe? This is pretty much the perfect use for that phrase, if they can’t isn’t found before the lifespan of the Soyuz runs out, they’re going to have to leave station unmanned.

      There is a LITERAL clock they are against to find a solution.

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