NASA is preparing to increase the duration of the flight of a manned spacecraft


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NASA is preparing to increase the duration of the flight of a manned spacecraft

At a January 19 press conference on the successful testing of the emergency rescue system for the new Dragon 2, NASA director Jim Brydenstein said the duration of the upcoming test flight to the International Space Station could be increased. Instead of the planned two weeks, the ship can spend several months on the ISS.

In 2020, only two Russian manned spacecraft Soyuz-MS will be launched to the ISS instead of the four that have already become familiar. The reduction in manned flights was planned five years ago, when it was assumed that new American ships would begin flights by this time. However, this has not happened yet: the upcoming manned flights this year, both SpaceX Dragon 2 and Boeing Starliner, are carried out according to the flight test program. Based on the results of flights, their certification will be carried out, and only after it the operation of new ships will begin. Because of this, from April 17, when the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft returns to Earth, the ISS crew can be reduced to three people for a long time.

To ensure the presence of the crew on the ISS, in 2018, NASA decided to increase the duration of the test flight of the Starliner and use it for delivery to the station for a long-term expedition. However, during an unmanned orbital flight in December 2019, Starliner encountered software problems. Their elimination will take at least several months, and it is possible that NASA will require to repeat an unmanned flight.

Last week, astronauts Robert Benken and Douglas Hurley – members of the crew of the Dragon ship in a test manned flight – began training in outer space, which were not part of the preparation for the two-week flight.

Officially, the extension of the Dragon 2 mission was not announced, but the start of training indicates that NASA at least did not abandon this idea. In addition, former NASA astronaut and SpaceX adviser Garrett Reisman said that, in his opinion, a decision was already made at NASA.

It was previously assumed that the first Dragon 2 with people on board will go to the International Space Station in the second half of May. Due to the expansion of the training program for astronauts, the launch may move for the summer.

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