When will NASA refuse to fly on Soyuz?
A few days ago, the media was alarmed by the news that NASA in April 2019 was completing a contract for astronaut flights by Russian Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station. The news was ambiguous. Someone exulted that finally Russia
The reality is a bit more prosaic.
First, in addition to the NASA and Roscosmos contract, which really ends on the April launch, there is also a NASA and Boeing contract for five places. Boeing received tickets to pay off debts for the Sea Launch floating platform, which has already been resold to S7 Space . Two astronauts under the Boeing contract have already flown, there are still three places that will allow NASA astronauts to fly until the end of 2019.
Secondly, today nobody will tell when the SpaceX 2 SpaceX and Starliner Spacecraft from Boeing will be ready for manned flights. According to the current schedule, test unmanned flights should take place before the end of 2018, and in 2019, manned flights should begin. But these graphics have been repeatedly edited and postponed. Starliner seemed to be in the lead in readiness, but recently the fuel valve on the engine of the emergency rescue system was stuck in it, and the schedules again "floated." I feel that if at least one manned flight of the United States takes place in 2019, they can be congratulated with significant success and good development rates.
Third, nobody in the space industry believes that the last contract of NASA and Roscosmos is really the last. The ISS remains a joint project, at least until 2024, and neither side is interested in stopping work, neither side wants a separation, because both sides depend on each other. Moreover, the Russian side needs new contracts, since NASA generously pays for flights, and RSC Energia, which is building Soyuz, has accumulated debts of $ 1 billion due to loans, corruption and the Angosat satellite crash.
Finally, even when Dragon and Starliner launch successful regular flights to the ISS, American astronauts will not stopflights on the Russian "Soyuz". Only now it will not be a “purchase of chairs”, but an honest exchange. This practice was used during the Space Shuttle. This is required not only in order to preserve good neighborly relations in space, but also to improve the reliability of the station and the safety of its crew - each pilot must be able to pilot all available types of ships.
So the Americans will fly "Soyuz" while the International Space Station is flying, and the Russians will fly on American ships, and, if lucky, even to the Moon.