MOSCOW, September 17 (RIA Novosti) - It will take the United States a long time to complete its project to launch spacecraft with American astronauts into orbit from US soil, following the country's refusal to use Russian Soyuz launchers, Andrei Ionin, chief analyst at GLONASS Union, told RIA Novosti Wednesday.
"It's important to understand that the implementation of the new American pilot project will be completed not by the end of 2017, as it has been announced, but in 2018-2020 at best. That's if everything goes according to plan, with no accidents," Ionin said.
The expert noted that, despite the fact that the United States has developed the partially reusable Dragon cargo spacecraft, to create a crewed version will be much more difficult.
"In the USSR, the development took a reverse course: the Soyuz crewed spacecraft, legendary in its reliability, was created first, and then, based on that, the Progress expendable cargo spacecraft was developed," Ionin recalled.
NASA currently pays Moscow $70 million for every astronaut carried into space by Russian Soyuz capsules, according to the latest deal signed last year and in effect until 2017.
On September 17, NASA announced that it had signed a $6.8 billion contract with Boeing and SpaceX to build its own spaceship, to carry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) starting in 2017.
Initially, NASA intended to launch the first astronauts under a new commercial crew program by 2015, however, budget issues postponed it until 2017.
Attempts at launching a commercial space program were made during George W. Bush's presidency but President Barack Obama's administration has not shown much support for the initiative, causing time delays.
NASA hopes to carry out two trips to the ISS a year, on average.
It is planned that the Boeing CST-100 and SpaceX' Dragon crewed spacecraft will lift off from the Kennedy Center's Cape Canaveral launch complex and carry four-person crews to the ISS, where they will remain docked for 210 days, and then fly the astronauts back to Earth.
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