Soyuz Rocket

Soyuz Rocket: Image Credit - NASA/Bill Ingalls

Russian officials announced that they will suspend ferrying space tourists to and from the International Space Station (ISS). This is due in part to the retirement of the United States space shuttle fleet that is expected to occur toward the end of this year. Russia will be the sole country transporting personnel and supplies to the ISS. The crew of the ISS will increase to 6, which means that Russia will need to commit all of the seating available on its Soyuz rockets to professional astronauts.

It may take a few years, at the earliest, for the United States to produce a spacecraft that is launch ready. The Constellation program, which includes building the Orion rocket, has been slated for termination in President Obama’s 2011 fiscal year NASA budget. If there is no change in the cancellation of the program, the next group of American spacecrafts capable of reaching the space station may come from burgeoning commercial space tourism enterprises.