Even after the arrival of US commercial crew vehicles, NASA is likely to continue flying its astronauts on the Russian Soyuz vehicle. “However, nothing has been signed officially yet,” an agency spokesperson said. "Bill Gerstenmaier and senior NASA leadership have stated their intention to have US crew members on Soyuz vehicles after 2019 and (to have) Russians on US crew vehicles," Space.com quoted Stephanie Schierholz, who works in public affairs at NASA Headquarters in Washington as saying. Gerstenmaier is the associate administrator for human exploration and operations for NASA. The US space agency retired its space shuttle program in 2011 and has relied on Russian vehicles since then to go to the ISS.
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The US space agency has an agreement with Russia to fly crews on Soyuz through at least 2019, and some of those crew members are already announced, the report said. NASA has partnered with two commercial crew providers - Boeing and SpaceX - to bring vehicles for crews online.
Earlier, Soyuz spacecraft landed one astronaut each from the US and Canada and a cosmonaut from Russia, on the International Space Station (ISS). The spacecraft was launched from the cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Soyuz had Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, NASA astronaut Anne McClain and the Canadian Space Agency's David Saint-Jacques on board.
The three crew members are conducting experiments in forest observation, robotic refuelling, and satellite deployment. The first failed mission raised concerns about Moscow’s Soviet-designed spacecraft, however, Russia’s Rocosmos space agency has confirmed that the previous aborted mission was caused by a faulty sensor.
Earlier, flight controllers on the ISS had detected a tiny leak on one of two Russian Soyuz spacecraft attached to the complex, as the Expedition 56 crew slept. The leak resulted in a small loss of cabin pressure. Flight controllers determined there was no immediate danger to the crew overnight.
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While SpaceX announced its first uncrewed test flight of the Dragon human spacecraft in 2019, Boeing is expected to launch its own uncrewed flight in the following months. Once these vehicles are certified for flight, astronauts will ride them to the ISS.
In August, NASA revealed the names of nine US astronauts who will fly on the first certification flights for Boeing's Starliner and SpaceX's Dragon.