The US government has paid Russia nearly $4 billion to transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS) via its Soyuz rockets since July, a report, compiled by the NASA Inspector General Paul Martin, said.
"As of July 2019, NASA had purchased 70 Soyuz seats worth $3.9 billion to ferry 70 U.S. and partner astronauts to and from the [International Space] Station", the report said.
The report also stipulates that the United States will likely be forced to reduce the number of its ISS crew, since new space flight systems are not ready yet.
"While awaiting the start of commercial crew flights, NASA will likely experience a reduction in the number of USOS [US Orbital Segment] crew aboard the ISS from three to one beginning in spring 2020 given schedule delays in the development of Boeing and SpaceX space flight systems coupled with a reduction in the frequency of Soyuz flights", the report read on.
As a result, US astronauts will focus on ISS maintenance instead of experiments and research, NASA suggested.
As the Space Shuttle program was terminated in 2011, the US lost its ability to arrange manned ISS flights on its own. Since 2014, private companies SpaceX and Boeing have been constructing manned spacecraft under a contract with NASA, but the deadline for their commissioning has not been set yet. NASA is currently mulling over buying seats aboard Russia's Soyuz in 2020.