MOSCOW , Aug. 6 (UPI) — NASA is extending its contract with the Russian Federal Space Agency to transport U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station, according to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Jr.
Bolden sent a letter to congressional leaders Wednesday notifying them that continued reductions in NASA’s budget necessitate the $490 million deal with Russia.
This comes after years of limited funding for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program — a partnership with private companies to develop and fly human space transportation systems. Congress cut about $1 billion from Barack Obama‘s request for a Commercial Crew Program in the past five years, which pushed NASA’s launch date to 2017.
NASA ended its Space Shuttle program in 2011, and its crew members rely on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
In February, President Barack Obama’s published budget proposal set aside $18.5 billion for the space agency, which marked a $500 million boost from 2014.
Funding totals for the Space Launch System mega-rocket and the Orion capsule were lower than what officials had requested. Other programs funded in the budget included the Asteroid Redirect Mission, a variety of space science initiatives and the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope that is scheduled for 2018.
The United States’ reliance on Russia for station crew transportation are in sharp contrast to a congressional ban on imports of Russian rocket engines for U.S. military satellite launches, Sydney Morning Herald reported.