Congress, NASA

Planning for another INKSNA waiver

Readers may remember that, three years ago, there was considerable pressure on Congress to approve a waiver for NASA to the Iran, North Korea, Syria Nonproliferation Act (INKSNA), actions that eventually included a letter from the NASA administrator at the time to a certain Illinois senator thanking him for his work supporting the waiver extension, even though that senator was spending most of his time on the campaign trail for higher office. Today, it’s hard to imagine Mike Griffin writing a thank-you letter to Barack Obama but, well, that was then, this is now.

That 2008 provision extended NASA’s waiver from INKSNA, allowing it to continue purchasing Soyuz and Progress flight services from Russia until 2016. While that waiver doesn’t expire for nearly five years, NASA officials are already planning what kind of new extension to that waiver the agency will require. In testimony before the House Science Committee’s space subcommittee Wednesday, NASA associate administrator Bill Gerstenmaier said that NASA expected it would need some kind of extension. “We think an exception to the Iran, North Korea, Syria Nonproliferation Act is needed, and is needed even if we don’t need to purchase Soyuz seats,” he said in response to a question from subcommittee chairman Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS).

Some kind of waiver extension will be needed for “basic operations”, such as minor services provided by Russia for routine station operations, regardless of whether one will be needed for purchasing Soyuz seats, Gerstenmaier explained. NASA is planning that by 2015 or 2016 commercial vehicles will take over NASA’s crew transportation needs, so an INKSNA waiver wouldn’t necessarily be needed for that (although Palazzo noted in the hearing that he’s been briefed by NASA officials who said they’re not expecting commercial crew systems to come online until 2017.) “We’re working the appropriate exception through the administration,” Gerstenmaier said. “We need that in place some time probably in late 2012, early 2013.”

Another NASA official also said Wednesday that NASA would need another INKSNA waiver by 2013 because of the lead times in producing Soyuz spacecraft. “We have a three-year lead time on Soyuz flights,” said Courtney Graham, associate general counsel for commercial law at NASA, at a space law forum in Washington organized by the University of Nebraska College of Law. “In mid-2013 we’re going to need to know whether we need INKSNA relief so we have that to buy more Soyuz flights” or if commercial providers will be on schedule to take over that role by 2016.

9 comments to Planning for another INKSNA waiver

  • amightywind

    Is it not obvious by now that Obama’s ‘reset’ with Russia is ineffective and that the threat of Russia is growing? The bad old days of the Soviet Union are back with a vengeance with President For Life Putin. Syria continues to butcher dissidents with Russian weapons while Russian diplomats run interference at the UN. There should be no more INKSNA waivers. The chances of one emerging from a GOP congress after 2012 are slim anyway.

  • Dennis

    WOW, what a mess!

  • Vladislaw

    OT: Jeff can you cover this?

    “Well, despite what NASA may or may not have been telling Rep. Rohrabacher about its internal evaluations regarding the merits of alternate architectures that did not use the SLS (and those that incorporated fuel depots), the agency had actually been rather busy studying those very topics.

    And guess what: the conclusions that NASA arrived at during these studies are in direct contrast to what the agency had been telling Congress, the media, and anyone else who would listen.

    This presentation “Propellant Depot Requirements Study – Status Report – HAT Technical Interchange Meeting – July 21, 2011″ is a distilled version of a study buried deep inside of NASA. The study compared and contrasted an SLS/SEP architecture with one based on propellant depots for human lunar and asteroid missions. Not only was the fuel depot mission architecture shown to be less expensive, fitting within expected budgets, it also gets humans beyond low Earth orbit a decade before the SLS architecture could.

    Moreover, supposed constraints on the availability of commercial launch alternatives often mentioned by SLS proponents, was debunked. In addition, clear integration and performance advantages to the use of commercial launchers Vs SLS was repeatedly touted as being desirable: “breaking costs into smaller, less-monolithic amounts allows great flexibility in meeting smaller and changing budget profiles.” “

    I doubt it will matter now, but when SLS fails I am sure this will be the default position going forward.

  • Michael from Iowa

    Here’s hoping Vlad.

  • Fred Willett

    It proves what those opposing HLVs have said all along. SLS is pure pork. If you really want to settle and explore the Moon and Mars then you can do it cheaper and quicker without HLV.
    For a Lunar architecture with a biggest launch piece of just 12t
    for a Mars architecture all on Delta IV Heavy and max of 40t chunks.
    SLS just keeps us trapped in LEO for another 20 years.
    Unless it gets cancelled, of course.

  • Fred Willett

    Sorry to get dragged OT. The INKSNA waiver is just a necessary hurdle NASA needs to jump through because Congress passed a silly law tying the administrations hands. As if the current or past administrations couldn’t tell who their friends and enemies were.
    It certainly doesn’t mean the end of the world is nigh or the current Pres is any better or worse than any other.
    (Sorry AMW).

  • all of a sudden I believe Armageddon is upon us… I actually agree with amightywind on something.

  • Robert G. Oler

    amightywind wrote @ October 13th, 2011 at 9:21 am

    “Is it not obvious by now that Obama’s ‘reset’ with Russia is ineffective and that the threat of Russia is growing?”

    in the goofy right wing world the “threats” are growing everywhere because that is all you people can deal with. dont be goofy, Russia is no more a threat to us then the Iraqs were pre 9/11. RGO

  • vulture4

    The Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act of 2000 was intended to threaten Russia with cutting off sales to NASA. The theory was that Russia would be so worried about NASA being unable to support ISS that Russia would cut off trade with Iran to protect the sale of a few Soyuz seats. INKSNA is a stupid law, passed by a Republican congress and signed by Bill Clinton. It should be repealed.

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