While nothing is officially signed, NASA plans to continue flying with its astronauts to the Russian federal vehicle, even after the vehicles of an American crew member travel on the Internet, according to a spokeswoman for the agency.
"Bill Gerstenmaier and the NASA leadership said they intend to have US crew members on the Soyuz vehicles after 2019 and [to have] Russians on US crew vehicles, "said Stephanie Schierholz, who works in public affairs at NASA headquarters in Washington.
Gerstenmayer is Associate Administrator for Human Research and Operations for NASA, a position he has since 2005. This post has a huge impact on the use of the International Space Station (ISS) and the development of future human space programs. [Soyuz Launch Photos: Expedition 58 Crew Lifts Off for Space Station]
NASA has an agreement with Russia to fly crews of the Soyuz at least in 2019, and some of them have already been announced. The US astronaut Anna McLean, who flew the Soyuz International Space Station on December 3, is scheduled to return to Soyuz station for six months.
And on Feb. 28, crew of the Soyuz Expedition 59 will include two Americans: Nick Hague and Christina Koch. The Hague was one of the astronauts who in October survived the break of Expedition 57, after the rapid return of Earth after failure; because its launch has passed the accepted boundary for space, the Expedition 59 will officially be considered his second voyage into space, and that will be the first Koch.
These new American athletes head to orbit at a time when NASA relies exclusively on Soyuz vehicles to send astronauts to space. NASA withdrew from its space shuttle program in 2011 and has since relied on Russian vehicles to go to the ISB.
For the most part, this arrangement has retreated at a glance, and the October launch is the only disruption in the crew rotations, after Russia became the only NASA provider for human launch services. (For comparison, NASA suffered a three-year interruption of operational ISS flights after a spaceship fleet was established in 2003 after a crash in Columbia.)
NASA and two commercial crew members, Boeing and SpaceX, are now close to bringing in vehicles for crews on the Internet. SpaceX released its first neutral flight test of the Dragon in 2019, and Boeing is expected to launch its own useless flight sometime in the coming months. Once these vehicles are certified for the flight, the astronauts will drive them to the ISS.
In August, NASA announced nine US astronauts to fly the first flight flights for Dragon Starliner and SpaceX's Dragon. Flying teams by certification were not announced, but Schierholtz said those flights would include crew members from outside the United States – the inclusion that NASA fully expects to expand to the Russians. NASA said that these flights by certification will be fully operational and will be regular, long-lasting rotating missions, just like the missions that today relieve the Alliance.
Schierholz added that with Russian and U. S. vehicles flying simultaneously will provide "surplus in crew transportation" to the ISS. Additionally, the flying of both Americans and Russians makes sense for both groups of vehicles, since the space station is made up of two different segments: the Russian side and the US side, which includes several modules from other countries. Because these two segments are completely different, said Schierholtz, operational requirements say that the best practice is always to have an American and Russian working simultaneously at the IAS.
"The intention is to continue to mix teams of all vehicles that go to the space station," she said.
Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and Facebook. Original article on Space.com.