NASA has recently pushed for a waiver that will allow the US to use Russian spacecraft to get to the ISS once the shuttle is retired and before a suitable replacement is built. However, in a more recent statement, NASA says that it will prefer to use private spacecraft rather than Russian craft, on the heels of the first successful SpaceX launch. Read more about it at Universe Today.
So I have a few problems with this. Now, I love the idea of commercial spacecraft. Yet I’ve heard lots of bashing of it, and how only the federal government can successfully run a space program. And yet here, we see the federal program attempting to lean on the commercial efforts! So score one for SpaceX. (Check out their spectacularly awesome video of the launch FROM the rocket!)
Second, I didn’t realize that businesses in the US are prevented
from doing business with Russia if Russia is doing business with Iran, North Korea or Syria to further their development of nuclear technology.
Although I understand the spirit of the matter, I find it hard to believe that businesses can be restricted from certain deals while a government agency can get a waiver. And, I assume that is what is happening here. Even if it only applies to government agencies, then how much do lawmakers really care about the spirit of this law if they are willing to give such waivers? It just smells like fishy politics to me.
Regardless of those issues, it is good for our astronauts to have one, or multiple, avenues to space and to the space station. NASA is in a bit of a bind with the shuttle. And I’m especially happy to see the SpaceX guys get a nod like this!