NASA is currently facing an untenable situation engendered by the INA, in which it will be unable to procure space transportation services from Russia in support of the continued operation of the International Space Station, at a time when the Shuttle is unable to provide such support on a guaranteed operational basis. This situation has been created by the INA of 2000.
The agreement between NASA and Roskosmos, the Russian space agency, under which Roskosmos will supply eleven Soyuz crew transport flights to the ISS as part of their contribution to overall station operations, is scheduled to end with the upcoming October launch. This Soyuz capsule will serve as an ISS "lifeboat" until April 2006.
Russia has indicated that further Soyuz flights, to deliver international (US/Russian) crews to the ISS, and support them while there, will have to be purchased. Such purchases, by the U.S., are currently precluded under the INA.
NASA also is limited in its ability to fully utilize all current U.S. expendable launch vehicles for ISS cargo re-supply once the Space Shuttle is retired. Without an appropriate amendment to the INA which covers the time period to the completion of the ISS operational phase, NASA's ability to utilize launch vehicles that have Russian components could compromise full support to the ISS.
In July of this year the Administration forwarded to the Congress a proposed amendment to the INA which "would maintain key existing U.S. nonproliferation tools while allowing for continued U.S.-Russian cooperation on the International Space Station (ISS) and other aspects of the Vision for Space Exploration."
The American Astronautical Society strongly endorses this proposal and urges the Congress to ensure that it is enacted into law prior to the upcoming Congressional recess. Only in this way can the continued smooth operation of the ISS, by a multinational (partly U.S.) crew, be ensured.
Should Congress fail to take action the U.S. could be faced with the specter of an ISS operated by an entirely non-U.S. crew, a situation that calls into question the very large U.S. investment to date in the development and operation of this facility. Potential future Russian cooperation in the implementation of the Vision for Space Exploration could also be impacted. As far as the AAS is concerned, such a situation would be totally unacceptable.