An Advisory Committee asks NASA to Reduce the Crew Size for ISS

NASA has set up an advisory body that looked at the delays that arise during the development of commercial crew systems. The committee wants the agency to consider options for reducing the crew that operates the International Space Station.

The Chairman of the advisory committee, Thomas Stafford, in a meeting mentioned some strategies that NASA can employ to reduce the size of the crew without affecting work that the ISS. He said that the United States astronaut could train Russian cosmonauts on some systems at the U.S Operating Segment of the ISS.

The committee recommended that NASA should plan with other ISS partners on ways to reduce the crew by fall 2019. Stafford said NASA should train cosmonauts who will enter the ISS aboard the Soyuz in September 2019 and March 2020. 

The committee asked NASA to deliver a presentation on the plans to reduce it crew size on the next advisory committee and NASA meeting. NASA’s spokesperson, Cheryl Warner, confirmed that the committee requested a presentation at their next meeting. 

Commercial launch companies are making progress in seeking certifications to fly humans as soon as possible, but it seems that arrangement will take some time to come to fruition.

The United States since 2011 has not flown humans. Astronauts who fly to the ISS usually hitch rides with Russia. Although SpaceX and Boeing are making plans to fly humans, they have not fully met the specifications to warrant certifications from NASA.

In January this year, the Government Accountability Office announced that the two space companies might not receive certifications to launch NASA astronauts until late 2019 or early 2020. The analysis revealed that SpaceX would receive its certifications in the later part of 2019 while Boeing’s certifications might not happen until early 2020. 

NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations, Bill Gerstenmaier, said NASA is finding potential ways to deal with certification delays that will go beyond the fall of 2019. NASA is also looking for a way to delay launch dates without affecting the work at the ISS. The agency would also not compromise on safety due to pressure arising from launch dates. 

NASA currently has access to the ISS from now to the first half of 2019. The agency bought five seats on the Soyuz rocket for launch in Spring. 

Stafford also mentioned that the committee discussed some minor technical issues concerning the ISS. SpaceX also declared that they would prioritize safety over schedule and they will only launch when they are ready.