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NASA MPCV  (Source: lockheedmartin.com)
A reduction in funding from Congress has bumped testing from 2015 to 2017

NASA has announced that commercial space flights will be delayed until 2017 due to decreased funding for its commercial partnership.

In a hearing with the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee's Subcommittee on Science and Space last week, Charles Bolden, NASA administrator, revealed that commercial space flights will be delayed two years.

Last month, NASA requested $850 million for its next phase of its commercial crew vehicle development. The effort is expected to give the U.S. a lift to the International Space Station (ISS) and beyond without having to depend on Russia, which has been the case since the retirement of NASA's space shuttle program earlier this year.

NASA has been urging Congress to fork over the $850 million because the cost for a U.S. astronaut to ride along with the Russians is expected to increase to $63 million per seat by 2015. In addition, NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said that the U.S. would have to pay the Russians $450 million annually for every year that the U.S. delays its own commercial crew vehicle development.

The plan was to send the first NASA commercial crew vehicle for testing in 2015 and to the ISS by 2016. But since Congress has only dished out $500 million of the $850 million requested, Bolden announced that the commercial crew vehicle development will be delayed two years to 2017.

"A reduction in funding from the president's request could significantly impact the program's schedule, risk, posture, and acquisition strategy," said Bolden.

Despite this delay, Bolden noted that NASA will continue working diligently on the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) and Space Launch System (SLS). The MPCV will be used to transport a crew from Earth to a desired destination such as Mars, and can carry up to four people for 21 days. NASA is also looking to send astronauts deeper into space than ever before.

NASA will test the system without a crew in 2017, and test the system with a crew in 2021.

Sources: Florida Today, Information Week





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