Between Iran and a hard policy

The Washington Post published an article Wednesday about the problems the US may face down the road with the ISS. Russia currently provides Soyuz spacecraft to the ISS through an agreement that will expire after the October 2005 Soyuz taxi mission. After that, the US will have to pay Russia for additional Soyuz flights. That, however, would be in contravention of the Iran Nonproliferation Act, which prevents NASA from purchasing anything from Russia for the ISS unless the administration certifies that Russia is not assisting Iran with the development of weapons of mass destruction. With no such certification in sight, the US may soon be in a sticky situation with the ISS. There doesn’t appear to be any easy way out in the foreseeable future:

[A senior administration] official, who declined to be identified by name because of Bush administration policy, did not rule out eventual certification of Russian compliance, but said the administration has no immediate plans to take that step. The official also saw no way to use the “imminent” danger exemption as long as a Soyuz craft lifeboat is at the station.

Also off the table is the possibility of buying Soyuz spacecraft through intermediaries or negotiating a new barter agreement. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Steven Pifer told Congress last year that such tactics “would likely be viewed by many as an evasion of the law.”

There’s not that much in the article that is new, but it is a good summary of the overall situation.

18 comments to Between Iran and a hard policy

  • Mark Zinthefer

    I’m on a posting bender lately so I’ll just continue.

    This is a clearcut example of how the “I” part of ISS leads to trouble down the road. Politics are posion to cooperative efforts like this.

    On a side note, the whole idea of going to war with a near-nuclear Iran scares the crap out of me.

  • Earl Blake

    Just some querstions:
    Since Russa gets just as much, (if not more), bennefit from the ISS as the US or any of the partner nations why shouldn’t they bear as much of the burden of access flights as the US or others?
    What is the compansation agreement(s) between the partners for services / equiptment provided?

  • kert

    ” bennefit from the ISS ”

    Benefit ? What benefit, pray tell ?

  • Mark Zinthefer

    Awesome! Another flamewar.

  • Earl Blake

    You’re missing the point.
    I was more interested in the services / hardware agreement between the partners; what is each partner resposible for, who built what parts etc. It’s murky for me and I’m sure a lot of others and it would be helpfull to us to know these things.
    For example I think the US paid for one of the Russian components, which one is that? Also did the US pay for all the MPLM’s or are some provided by Italy for access to the station?

  • John Malkin

    I think it’s much ado about nothing. There are a couple of issues but I don’t see this as a reason to abandon ISS without ISS I doubt the US would have continue human spaceflight anytime soon. It’s all legal stuff and since all the partners want ISS to continue, it will be worked out. The ISS is a major asset and it would be a short sighted to allow it to come to the same demise as Skylab. The US has been very successful in international projects in every scientific and commercial area. It would be a big mistake to abandon joint project with other nations. These create diplomatic ties much deeper than anything done in the U.N.

    However I think it’s important we have our own labs and even more important our own vehicles for getting around in space. Isn’t hitchhiking illegal and dangerous?

  • Mark Zinthefer

    The US has been very successful in international projects in every scientific and commercial area.

    Yeah, like fusion. That’s going gangbusters.

    God knows we don’t get fast and effective results if we do it on our own.

  • John Malkin

    Fusion is moving along and we couldn’t do it unless we had money from other countries. Look what happen to the super collider in Texas, the US drop the ball on that big time? I think we should have a department of science that sets long term scientific priorities and runs all the government agencies to focus on those priorities. A department would have better control of the budget instead of letting the science committee made up of Politians decide on how the science dollars are spent.

  • Mark Zinthefer

    Fusion is moving along…


  • Anonymous

    “Yeah, like fusion. That’s going gangbusters.”

    Yes, the US is also lagging on building a perpetual motion machine too…

  • John Malkin

    The Department of Energy has canceled work on fusion so the US isn’t moving at all on its own. The more partners in a project the more resources but the more complicated decision making becomes. It just takes time. Congress might fund development of a Fusion reactor if it was tied to decreasing foreign energy dependence but I doubt it. The technology for Fusion is so bleeding edge I hope they put it as far away as possible. The Global linear collider will face the same problems.

    ISS is different from either of these with each country owning pieces of the station but the US is the controlling country. Unfortunately just like oil we are dependent on other nations for transportation and re-supply of ISS. The Mars Exploration Rovers have sensors from different countries but we ownership and responsibility of the main craft.

    I think the kind of cooperation we have with other countries on MER, Cassini, Shuttle and ISS is the right way to go but we must not become dependent on other countries.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Posted by John Malkin at August 26, 2004 02:35 PM

  • Jim Muncy

    To John Malkin:

    What the blazes are you talking about re the Science Committee? The Congress doesn’t decide what the science goals are. It does have to provide funding, and it decides whether or not various projects are working well or not.

    Have you read the Constitution? Do you realize that Congress has to appropriate funds? It isn’t just an automatic fraction of tax revenues!


  • Anonymous

    Back to the Iran Nonproliferation Act…

    The really interesting behind-the-scenes story is that because Russia has been bearing all of the crew transfer and cargo delivery burden for the past two years, they are telling NASA not to expect an available crew transfer seat on Soyuz 10, which launches in April 2005.

    In effect they are telling NASA that if it wants a crewperson at ISS starting in April 2005, not April 2006, that the Shuttle will have to return to flight.

    That sounds like “schedule pressure” to me.

  • Mark Zinthefer

    It also sounds to me like Russia is just sick of doing all the work and is almost pressuring the Americans to spend some of their fretting-time on getting humans back into space (or at least orbit).

  • John Malkin

    Bill Parsons said his team will not succumb to deadline or schedule pressure. This is a milestone-driven schedule.

    It would be interesting to know if there is any pressure within NASA on the launch date. O’Keefe job as NASA administrator would be to create a wall between spaceflight operations and external influences. After the partners meeting there was no indication that there was a problem in Russia continuing to assist NASA. However NASA did agree to 5 to 6 personnel on ISS but 2006. This would indicate some expectation to buy Soyuz services. ESA will be assisting in re-supply shortly so NASA will not be dependent on Progress ships.

    As far as saying they won’t have a seat for an American available, this might be in retribution for NASA not wanting to extend missions to one year. In an interview with American ISS crew member, he said they would rather not be away from there family for an entire year.

  • Anonymous


    The reason the Russians proposed a one year mission was to force the issue of no American flying on the Soyuz in April 2005. They were talking about flying two paying passengers in that flight.

    The core issue is that Russia wants to force NASA to fly the Shuttle in early 2005 OR pay them to keep bearing the burden. Since the ATV will not fly until fall 2005, it does not solve NASA’s problems.

  • John Malkin

    I don’t think Russia is being that hard nose, the agreement with NASA currently expires 2006.

    Even if Russia attepts to pressure NASA to launch before ready, it is up to NASA Management to not allow it to affect flight operations.

    NASA has two outside monitoring groups so I don’t think the Shuttle program will fall victim to scheule pressures for the first few flights.

    Russia needs the money but Russia knows the US governement can’t pay directly or indirectly. I’m not worried, the US just has to work out the legal stuff which won’t happen until congress is back in session.